Cheveldayoff's 2021 actions more concerning than those a decade ago: sexual abuse survivor

A University of Winnipeg researcher wants to change the way sexual assault allegations are investigated in sports. Global News reporter Joe Scarpelli explains why.

Although Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was cleared by the NHL last week of any involvement in the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal, a survivor and advocate says the executive’s Tuesday press conference missed the mark.

Greg Gilhooly, a former Winnipegger now based in Toronto, told Global News the Jets’ presser, which also included comments from the team’s governor and co-owner Mark Chipman, was well-intentioned but skipped over some crucial details.

“I don’t want to be overly pessimistic — I think you’ve got a group of very good people who have unfortunately found themselves in a situation where very serious mistakes have been made, and good people make mistakes all the time,” said Gilhooly.

“The focus here is being lost — this is about Kyle Beach, the victim. What happened to him, who didn’t serve him, and who forgot to look out for his interests.”

Cheveldayoff was assistant general manager for the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks in 2010, when Beach, a call-up from the team’s minor league affiliate, alleges he was sexually abused by the Blackhawks’ video coach.

Due to details revealed in an investigation by a third-party law firm, most of the Blackhawks’ brass from that era — including GM Stan Bowman and then-head coach Joel Quenneville — have found themselves unemployed in recent weeks.

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Winnipeg Jets’ Cheveldayoff says he was ‘not aware’ of severity of Blackhawks scandal allegations

Cheveldayoff, who attended a May 2010 meeting about the incident, was given the green light by the league on Friday after it was determined he was unaware of the severity of the allegations against assistant coach Brad Aldrich, and as the junior executive in the room, was not in a position of power.

The Jets’ GM repeated those points at Tuesday’s media conference, and, along with Chipman, pledged to push for change within the Winnipeg organization and the league in general.

“Kyle was failed by a system that should have helped him, but did not,” Cheveldayoff said Tuesday in Winnipeg.

“I am sorry that my own assumptions about that system were clearly not good enough.”

Gilhooly said he loved hearing the Jets brass talk about wanting to improve going forward, but that he’s more concerned with Cheveldayoff’s actions — or inactions — in 2021 than he is about what the 51-year-old did at the time of the alleged abuse.

“The problem is this is what happened to Kyle Beach 11 years ago … and what happened to him this year, when Kevin Cheveldayoff only apologized on his fourth attempt,” he said.

“Kevin Cheveldayoff could have made a meaningful difference in Kyle Beach’s life earlier this year by just standing up and telling the truth about what happened, rather than lawyer up and hiding facts.

“I have a lot of sympathy of Cheveldayoff — junior person in the room, maybe broken telephone…. It’s not like he heard directly from Beach back in 2010. So I get the fact of his potential defences, and everything he said, and I assume he’s a truthful man.

“My problem is with Cheveldayoff’s 2021 actions. He didn’t show leadership. In hockey parlance, he turtled.”

Sandra Kirby, abuse and harassment in sport expert, told Global News the press conference was a combination of heartfelt feeling with “a great deal of organizational dancing about”.

“They’re largely unprepared for this kind of thing — when you’re talking to owners and general managers, their skill sets are not in this area, so you need to give them a little bit of room,” Kirby said.

“On the other hand, they all have policies. They should’ve been talking about the policies they have, how they did or did not follow the policies, and if they did follow the policies and they came to the wrong conclusion, how do they need to change the policies?

“They should’ve been talking about education they would do across the board for all coaches, all players, all managers… because by and large, hockey’s a great place. There are things that need cleaning up, but unless you get the issue, you can’t be part of cleaning it up.”

Kirby said she feels confident that Cheveldayoff and Chipman will do better going forward, based on their statements at the press conference, but she doesn’t think either the Chicago Blackhawks or NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ‘got the issue’ based on the way they’ve treated the scandal.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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