Editor’s note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be upsetting for some readers. If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.
WINNIPEG — Kevin Cheveldayoff finds himself directly in the crosshairs and his ability to fill in the blanks could ultimately determine his future with the Winnipeg Jets.
On a day that saw lead investigator Reid Schar of Jenner & Block LLP disclose the findings of the investigation in a public briefing on Tuesday, the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets was mentioned among the Chicago Blackhawks employees who attended a meeting where allegations of sexual assault involving former coach Brad Aldrich were brought forth in 2010.
Cheveldayoff, who was the Blackhawks’ assistant general manager at the time, was among the 139 individuals interviewed for the report and his response to those findings came in the form of a statement released by the Jets on Tuesday night.
The following is a statement from Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff regarding the results of the investigation released today: pic.twitter.com/sAp9pWWD2t
— Winnipeg Jets PR (@WpgJetsPR) October 26, 2021
Given the nature of the lawsuit and the horrific details of the alleged sexual assaults, it’s no wonder Cheveldayoff has chosen to tread lightly.
A good lawyer would probably advise that less is more in a situation like this one.
But when it comes to Cheveldayoff’s next step, releasing a less-than-revealing statement isn’t going to be enough.
He needs to provide some of the missing details in this story, even if that means sharing some uncomfortable truths.
What did he find out in the meeting and how did he expect it to be handled?
What might he have been able to do differently in the aftermath?
These are several of the questions that might be able to shed a bit more light on the situation.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declared in a statement of his own that he planned to speak to both Cheveldayoff and current Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville in the near future.
“To discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report. I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them,” the statement read.
Does that implicitly mean the NHL has decided to take further action?
Absolutely not, but the possibility can’t be discounted, either.
If Cheveldayoff doesn’t want to share his thoughts publicly before the meeting with Bettman, that’s his prerogative.
This is obviously a delicate situation and there are a lot of moving parts, especially when you consider the potential for far-reaching ramifications.
Cheveldayoff is the only GM in Jets 2.0 history and his relationship with governor and co-owner Mark Chipman dates back to their time as rivals from opposing organizations in the International Hockey League — when the Chicago Wolves were the gold standard.
The Jets organization prides itself on continuity and stability, so what comes next won’t include any rash decisions.
Back in July, Cheveldayoff released a separate statement regarding Aldrich.
“I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks. After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement,” the statement said, before noting he would co-operate with any investigation.
Some observers thought today’s statement by Cheveldayoff may have contradicted his previous statement.
That may be open to debate, despite Cheveldayoff’s reluctance to mention he was involved in the 2010 meeting at the time.
One would suspect Cheveldayoff was a bit more forthright when he shared the details with his employer, otherwise the discussion could already be headed in a different direction entirely.
Where things go from here isn’t immediately clear, other than knowing that the information-gathering process is ongoing and that further evidence will be brought forward before any revelations about what the next step from the Jets or the NHL might be.
The court of public opinion has already made its ruling on that matter and the list of individuals who lost their respective jobs only got longer on Tuesday — headlined by GM Stan Bowman “stepping away” from the Blackhawks and “stepping down” as Team USA GM for the upcoming Olympics.
Ultimately, this isn’t about searching for the moral high ground or appointing oneself as the judge or jury.
It’s about trying to create the type of environment where players feel comfortable coming forward with concerns and people in positions of authority feel emboldened to step in and take action.
More than anything, the environment needs to change.