Why Kevin Cheveldayoff still owes Kyle Beach an apology

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff owes Kyle Beach an apology. (CP)

WINNIPEG – Kevin Cheveldayoff owes Kyle Beach an apology.

He’s not alone in that regard, but he’s definitely not exempt either.

A simple “I’m sorry” was the one big thing absent from the statement by Cheveldayoff released by the Winnipeg Jets after the NHL ruled he would not be disciplined with respect to the Brad Aldrich matter after a meeting with commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday in New York.

Perhaps Cheveldayoff wants to save that important part of the process for when he speaks publicly for the first time on this matter, alongside Jets governor and co-owner Mark Chipman, who accompanied his general manager to the meeting at the NHL head office.

That meeting with the media is scheduled for Monday, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, but much like the Jets’ insistence to move up the discussion with Bettman from Monday, the same should be considered here.

Don’t let this story linger. Tackle this important topic head-on.

This conversation isn’t going to somehow slip away quietly into the night.

It’s not a product of a 24-hour spin cycle, only to be replaced by announcing a contract extension for an important player or welcoming a player back from the NHL’s Covid-19 protocol.

This stretches beyond hockey and into the culture of the sport that requires serious repair.

Many people in the hockey world let down the Chicago Blackhawks prospect with their inability to take appropriate action back in 2010, when the sexual assault allegations were brought forth in a meeting on May 23 of that year.

Cheveldayoff was one of the people who let Beach down, even if he doesn’t shoulder the same level of blame or responsibility as the six others in the meeting who have either left the Blackhawks organization or been given the opportunity to resign.

Here’s the start of the aforementioned statement released by the Jets on Friday:

“First and most importantly, I want to express my support of and empathy for Kyle Beach and all he has had to endure since 2010,” wrote Cheveldayoff. “He was incredibly brave coming forward to tell his story. We can all use his courage as an inspiration to do a better job of making hockey a safer space for anyone who wants to play the game.”

Supporting Beach is something almost the entire hockey world is doing and acknowledging his pain and bravery makes perfect sense.

However, a better choice of words would have included using sympathy rather than empathy.

That may seem like a minor detail to some, but words matter.

It’s nearly impossible for anyone to know what Beach went through and continues to go through – unless you are a victim of sexual assault.

Ultimately, it’s the actions of Cheveldayoff and the Jets’ organization that matter most.

When it comes to making the hockey world a safer place, Cheveldayoff and the Jets must do their part to ensure that is exactly what happens.

Given some of the background about the circumstances and power structure at the time, one could understand why someone new to the organization wouldn’t necessarily want to risk rocking the boat.

However, with the benefit of hindsight and experience, what can Cheveldayoff tell us about the type of environment he’s worked to foster during his 11-year tenure as the GM of the Jets?

And what is he doing to ensure someone who reports to him would be comfortable enough to bring important matters to his attention, even if they’re not in a senior position of management?

It was essential for Cheveldayoff to cooperate with the Jenner and Block investigation and he was able to provide answers for the report that was released earlier this week.

The same goes for his meeting with Bettman, as evidenced in the statement released by the NHL that explained the reasons that no further action was taken.

The basis of that explanation revolves around what Cheveldayoff learned in the May 23, 2010, meeting and what was said by his superiors about how the issue would be handled.

As for Chipman, it’s also important for him to take questions on why he is standing beside Cheveldayoff in this situation.

Chipman has known Cheveldayoff the longest and knows how he conducts business behind closed doors.

Chipman is clearly comfortable having Cheveldayoff continue in this important position of authority, that’s part of the reason he was at his side in the meeting with Bettman when his job could have easily been hanging in the balance.

Sharing those thoughts in a public forum where some difficult questions will be asked is the next step in this complex process.

Issuing another statement is not going to be enough.

The NHL has exonerated Cheveldayoff from any punishment or discipline, so it’s time for him to share genuine thoughts and emotions on the matter.

This isn’t about pointing the finger and assigning blame to someone else – that’s not Cheveldayoff’s style and wouldn’t accomplish anything.

Just as Kyle Beach put a human face on this grave injustice, it’s imperative that both Cheveldayoff and Chipman speak from the heart and provide concrete examples of how they will try to bring hockey to a better place.

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