Investigation into NHLPA’s handling of Kyle Beach’s sexual-assault allegations raises more questions than it answers

The investigation, conducted by Cozen O’Connor and released Friday, cleared the NHLPA and its director, Donald Fehr, of wrongdoing. But the findings leave many things unanswered.

SHARE Investigation into NHLPA’s handling of Kyle Beach’s sexual-assault allegations raises more questions than it answers
Donald Fehr, director of the NHLPA, was cleared of wrongdoing in regards to the Kyle Beach case.

Donald Fehr, director of the NHLPA, was cleared of wrongdoing in regards to the Kyle Beach case.

Hans Pennink/AP

An investigation into the NHL Players’ Association’s handling of Kyle Beach’s 2010 sexual-assault allegations against former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich has cleared the union and its director, Donald Fehr.

The investigation, conducted by the law firm Cozen O’Connor and released publicly Friday, could not ‘‘identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failures of policy or procedure by either Fehr [or] NHLPA personnel.’’

But the details in the investigation report raise far more questions than they answer.

Beach and ‘‘Black Ace 1,’’ the still-anonymous Hawks prospect whom Aldrich allegedly sexually harassed in 2010, refused to participate in the Cozen O’Connor investigation. Why?

Beach’s former agent, Ross Gurney, told investigators he called Fehr in December 2010 after Aldrich was hired by USA Hockey, hoping Fehr would notify USA Hockey about Aldrich’s immorality. Gurney recalled describing Aldrich as a ‘‘sexual predator’’ or ‘‘pedophile’’ to Fehr, yet Fehr swears he doesn’t remember hearing that.

How does Fehr not remember? And, more important, why did he not notify USA Hockey at the time?

Fehr told investigators he wouldn’t have notified USA Hockey anyway without knowing more details about what Aldrich did and whether Beach had reported it. In that case, why did he not ask for such details or why did Gurney not provide them?

Gurney told investigators he remained in regular contact with Fehr but never followed up about Aldrich. Why? And why did he not keep track of Aldrich himself and try to notify his later employers, such as Notre Dame and Miami of Ohio?

Black Ace 1’s former agent, Joe Resnick, emailed Fehr in April 2011 about Black Ace 1 talking with an NHLPA-affiliated therapist about the sexual harassment he endured. In that email, Resnick wrote: ‘‘I know you have spoken with [Gurney] regarding an incident with [Beach] . . . last year.’’

How did Resnick know about the conversation between Gurney and Fehr? The most logical answer is that Gurney told him, but that scenario would suggest the Beach/Aldrich incident was more widely discussed between relevant persons than the investigation suggests. What other conversations occurred? Who else might have been told?

Investigators found phone records of a 14-minute call between Resnick and Fehr hours after that email, yet neither Resnick nor Fehr remembers the call. What was said? Why did it not lead to tangible action? How do neither remember it?

Dr. Brian Shaw, a psychologist in the NHL/NHLPA’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, told investigators Beach gave him a ‘‘graphic account’’ of Aldrich’s sexual assault and asked whether someone was contacting USA Hockey about Aldrich. But Shaw considered Beach’s comments a ‘‘privileged conversation’’ between patient and therapist and therefore confidential. Thus, he didn’t notify USA Hockey.

Why did Shaw not ask Beach whether he wanted him to contact USA Hockey? Why did he not clarify that perceived confidentiality with Beach?

Shaw also didn’t share the story of his call with Beach with Jenner & Block investigators during the Hawks’ investigation last year because they asked him whether he had ‘‘met’’ with Beach, not whether he had talked with him in general. Why did Shaw initially withhold this information over such a technicality?

Finally, the findings of the investigation clearly demonstrate a pervasive culture of poor communication and deferral of responsibility in the NHLPA and other NHL circles. So how is that not indicative of an ‘‘institutional failure of policy or procedure’’?

Some might dismiss this investigation and its questions as relatively irrelevant. Indeed, Beach’s lawsuit has been settled, and the former Hawks executives involved in the cover-up have been fired.

But to ensure a similar breakdown of accountability doesn’t happen again, all bases must be covered. The NHLPA remains the association responsible for protecting NHL players and their interests. Fehr remains its director. Gurney and Resnick remain agents. They all matter. And these questions will linger unanswered.

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