In an NHLPA virtual meeting conducted Monday night, executive director Donald Fehr recommended the union hire outside counsel to independently investigate its role in the Kyle Beach-Chicago Blackhawks scandal. This was in light of the Jenner & Block LLP report released last week, which also revealed the NHLPA, and Fehr, had been made aware of allegations on some level.
ESPN's Emily Kaplan reported there were 80 players on the call. A vote on that recommendation is expected to be done Tuesday.
“I think it’s one of those things where the majority of us weren’t members of the NHLPA, or weren’t in the NHL back in 2010," Lowry said. "It’s important that we look at our union, we look at processes that went in to how it was reported, how things happened, how things unfolded with Kyle in regards to members of the union. To learn more and shed some light on what happened, what could possibly change, what needs to change in order that some of these things don’t repeat themselves. To see if anyone’s at fault or where, not necessarily to blame, but where inaction or more action needs to be done. And go from there. It’s important we use this investigation to move forward and make our union stronger. To make sure it’s a place where if you have troubles you can go, you can feel that problems aren’t just going to be heard, but dealt with accordingly and properly and by the law and things like that. I think we’re all just looking forward to seeing how the independent investigation unfolds and go from there.”
Added Horvat: "It is unacceptable. I think, you know, it's their job (the NHLPA's) to kind of protect us and protect the players. They're working for us. To have that investigation, make sure that we do the right things from here on out and players' voices are heard. It's awful what happened. We just want to make sure that it doesn't happen again. If it was taken care of the right way in the first place, then none of this would have happened. I think that's the sad part, and that's why I'm glad Kyle reached out and came forward with this so this kind of stuff doesn't happen again."
According to the 107-page report, which can be found here, Fehr was contacted twice about allegations connected to former video coach Brad Aldrich, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he couldn't recall either conversation, but did not deny that they had occurred.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was also mentioned in the Jenner & Block report as having been present at a leadership meeting in 2010, as assistant GM of the Blackhawks at the time, where sexual assault allegations were brought forth on May 23. Cheveldayoff and Jets owner Mark Chipman met with commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday where it was decided Cheveldayoff would not face discipline for his role in the Blackhawks scandal.
Cheveldayoff spoke with Jets players last week about the incident and Lowry was asked what that discussion was like.
"I think, playing in my time in Winnipeg, they’ve made it known, they’ve made it aware to us that we’re an organization where we want to take care of everyone off the ice," Lowry said. "If you’re having struggles, if you’re having problems, whether that’s drug abuse, alcohol, mental health issues, sexual assault, domestic problems, there’s areas in this organization you can go to and feel comfortable. Whether you're going to Wheels (captain Blake Wheeler) and he’s going to find the proper channels, whether you’re going to Mo (coach Paul Maurice), whether you’re going to Chevy (Cheveldayoff) or Chipper (Chipman). I feel pretty fortunate being in an organization where I personally feel comfortable with that. I think he just wanted to re-iterate it. There was a lot of news surrounding his meeting with Gary and things like that. That was kind of the gist of the meeting, just re-iterating that here in the Jets organization, we want to make sure everyone feels included. Whoever they are, whatever they are, whatever they represent, we’re all equals here, we’re all trying to achieve a common goal. And the good of the player or person comes first.”
As change is clearly required in the NHL and the sporting world beyond, hockey's culture has also been put under the microscope for its ingrained role in reporting issues. Lowry was asked if the team-first culture and expectation that permeates the sport made it difficult to discuss issues like these and move towards meaningful change.
“I think each situation is unique and each situation brings up different paths forward," he said. "It’s one of those things where, as a hockey player, you’re kind of taught the overall well-being of the team is usually greater than the sum of the parts. As we move forward, I think it’s important we look at the importance of the sum of the parts. Not just being a piece of the team, but it’s important your livelihood, your life away from the rink is looked after, we take care of that. If you have problems, if you need to seek help, you’re not going to be a distraction, you’re not going to be a disturbance, you’re not a burden to anyone. It’s one of those things where, in the room, you’re taught to be selfless. We all want to help each other, we all want to achieve a common goal, but we don’t want anyone to be suffering in silence.
"I think as things come forward, as we progress as a society, not just in hockey but just in everyday life, it’s become a lot more mainstream. We’re dealing with mental health, we’re dealing with drug abuse, we’re dealing with sexual assaults, sexual abuse and things like that. There’s more resources you can go to, there’s more people you can feel comfortable turning to. And I think that’s the next step forward, just continuing on that path.”
Horvat says a full look at how the NHLPA handled the matter is crucial.
"I think it is really important that we do have an investigation and kind of get to the bottom of this and make sure this never happens again. And make sure that it's done right and, for Kyle's sake, to get to the bottom of it and start his healing process," he said.
In 2010, when Beach (unnamed at the time) first reported allegations of sexual assault against Aldrich, he was a black ace for the Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup playoff run. Beach, a first-round pick of Chicago's in 2008, didn't play a game with the Blackhawks during his time with the team.
Lowry, a team leader for the Jets, was asked about how to ensure players who are lower in the lineup with perhaps less "social power" in the room could also feel comfortable speaking up.
“I think that’s the situation where you’re given multiple avenues to report things. There’s the hotline, but again, I can only speak for our team’s experience, maybe you don’t feel comfortable going to someone in management, ownership and even the coaching staff, but we’ve made it known you can go to Blake (Wheeler) and Blake will make sure that it’s brought up to the right people," Lowry said. "You can go to other people. It’s just about fostering that sense in the room that you have someone to turn to. You’re not on an island regardless of who you are, what you make, how many points you get, regardless of if you’re up and down, you’ve been on the team for 10 years, you’ve been on the team for 10 days. I think that’s something that’s always going to continue to be worked on, continue to be looked at.
"Speaking for my experiences in Winnipeg, they do a good job in allowing and making it known that there’s not just one person you can turn to if there’s a problem, you have a community here and an organization within the community that’s really tight-knit. There’s multiple ways you can go about that.”
Cheveldayoff and Chipman are expected to address the media Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. CT.