Quenneville, Blackhawks’ leading players should have done more for Beach

Elliotte Friedman joined Sportsnet Central to discuss Joel Quenneville's resignation from the Florida Panthers after he met with Gary Bettman and what will happen with Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Joel Quenneville was among the first to learn about what happened to Kyle Beach, while Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews says he heard about it at the following training camp, back in the fall of 2010.

Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith both put a much longer timeline on when they began to hear “rumours” about what had precipitated the departure of video coach Brad Aldrich.

But when you piece together the timeline of the three pillars of that dynastic Chicago Blackhawks club and their head coach, what emerges is a clear picture of the final, most organic level of failure, in an organization that failed Kyle Beach at every level possible.

The dressing room.

After the team president, the general manager, ownership, and the head coach failed to immediately report or investigate the allegations, some Blackhawks player leaders — even a decade later — failed one of their own in not reaching out in support of Beach.

On Thursday evening, after a meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers. He, the Jenner and Block report showed, was among the first and most demanding voices to warn against allowing the Beach assault to become a distraction in the Chicago dressing room, as the team entered the 2010 Stanley Cup Final against Philadelphia.

Quenneville put a Stanley Cup ahead of Kyle Beach, and if anything protected video coach Brad Aldrich’s role within the team.

On Thursday he paid the price for that.

“I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered,” Quenneville said in a statement released to reporter Chris Johnston late Thursday evening. “My former team the Blackhawks failed Kyle and I own my share of that. I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take my time to educate myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.”

Those words are too little, too late from Quenneville, who the investigation showed helped steer the Blackhawks in their initial wrong-headed direction, upon that first meeting when the course of inaction was being planned. When it was decided that the news should never reach the dressing room, and become a distraction that could hinder the Blackhawks’ Cup aspirations

As such, Jonathan Toews says he did not hear of the incident until the following training camp, back in the fall of 2010. Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith both put a much longer timeline on when they began to hear “rumours” about what had precipitated the departure of Aldrich.

But when you put together the timeline of the three pillars of that dynastic Chicago Blackhawks club, what you really get is a clear picture of the final, most organic level of failure, in an organization that failed Kyle Beach at every level possible.

The players.

After the team president, the general manager, ownership, and the head coach failed to immediately report or investigate the allegations, some Blackhawks player leaders — even a decade later — failed one of their own in not reaching out in support of Beach.

“I don’t wish to exonerate myself in any situation by saying I didn’t know,” team captain Jonathan Toews said Wednesday night. “But the truth is I hadn’t heard about it until training camp the next year. That doesn’t change what happened. It doesn’t make it go away.”

So, it took a few months to reach Toews’ ears. That’s understandable, with a Stanley Cup run, the ensuing celebration and all of that. But when the captain of the team — the accepted, respected leader among those men who strapped on the equipment and pulled that Blackhawks sweater over their heads — finally heard the rumours, where was the leadership?

Toews, like everyone else, took no action. He is rueful of that today.

“Now, when you go through the detail of it all, it looks ugly,” Toews said, “and it’s really hard to stomach that you don’t dive into something like that a little more deeply, or take it more seriously on the spot. It’s always easy to say in hindsight.

“Had I been more connected to the situation, and known some of the more gory details of it? I’d like to say, yeah, I would have acted differently in my role a captain, for sure.”

What stopped Toews from walking into team president John McDonough’s office and getting to the bottom of the story? Why not go into coach Joel Quenneville’s office for a chat or call GM Stan Bowman and simply ask for the details?

Hockey has come to embrace Toews as one of its great captains. Where did it go on this file?

“We wish we could have done something differently, myself included,” Toews said. “My heart goes out to Kyle for what he dealt with. Wish I could have done something. It’s not an excuse looking back, but the truth is a lot of us were focused on just playing hockey.”

Any of Toews, Kane or Keith had the sway to demand an answer from the Blackhawks front office. To flesh out whatever rumours were swirling. To show that this teammate mattered even a little bit to them.

None of them made that effort.

“After the season, the next year, I questioned why … Brad Aldrich wasn’t there anymore,” Keith said. “I was told it was because the NHL schedule was too much. That he went to college. I found it odd, that he was (leaving) a championship team. But it is a tough schedule, with lots of travel, and tiring,

“So, I thought, ‘Each to their own.’”

Kane, like Keith, seemed to be particularly distanced from the plight of a teammate.

“If a lot of us players knew at the time, maybe we could have done some different things — I don’t know what we could have done to change the situation,” said Kane. “Brad wasn’t with us after that year. And you remember hearing, vaguely, some different rumours. But nothing too into detail about what actually happened and why he left. Like I said, it was very vague.”

Although Toews admitted to hearing about an incident at the training camp after the team’s Cup win in 2010, outside a hotel when they “would have an organization meeting,” Kane and Keith said they were unaware for a much longer time. How a “rumour” like the one surrounding Aldrich’s departure could reach the team captain, but somehow not flow to the rest of the leadership group is a fair question.

“I know there was talk that players knew, and maybe some guys did know. But not everybody knew,” Keith said. “Maybe that’s hard for people to understand, but that’s the truth: Not everybody knew. I didn’t know that that was happening, and that those things happened to that person.”

The shame here is not being unaware of the details of Aldrich’s abuse, back in 2010 and beyond. The shame here is that Beach’s colleagues didn’t care enough to ask questions.

So nobody knew during that 2010 Cup run, because the team buried the story in the short term.

It’s been a decade.

Couldn’t someone have found a moment to express more concern and demand answers?

Isn’t that what leadership and being a teammate is all about?

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