The Kyle Beach case has shaken players’ faith in the NHL and the union. Leaf Wayne Simmonds suggests a third party
Wayne Simmonds’s heart goes out to Kyle Beach, but he’s still trying to wrap his mind around how many people failed the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick after his allegations of sexual assault.
The revelations of the last week have left Simmonds questioning everyone in power around the sport. And the 14-year veteran admits that they even shook his faith in the NHL Players’ Association.
“Quite frankly, yeah, it has,” Simmonds said Wednesday.
He still can’t get past the fact Beach shared details of his sexual assault allegations against Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich with superiors during the 2010 playoffs and saw everything swept under the rug for more than a decade.
The “unbelievable” nature of that story is what the conversations inside the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room have revolved around since Beach publicly revealed his identity during a powerful interview with TSN, according to Simmonds.
It compelled him to follow Robin Lehner’s lead by speaking up as a voice for change within the sport. One place the Leafs winger believes they should start is by introducing a third party to handle serious allegations rather than allowing the league to police itself.
“An outside scope to where they’re not thinking about who is getting punishment here, or who is going to get taken out of a GM spot or a coaching spot or something like that. Because when it comes to sexual assault and a lot of other matters in this league, people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. People shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth with fear of repercussions,” said Simmonds.
The players are launching their own investigation into how the NHLPA dealt with the Beach incident. Executive director Don Fehr told about 80 players on an executive board call earlier this week that he had no recollection of receiving two emails in 2011 from agents who raised concerns about what happened to Beach while he was with the Blackhawks.
The investigation will be conducted by outside legal counsel and is expected to take about three months to complete. What it finds could determine whether Fehr remains in control of the union.
“I don’t have enough knowledge of the details in terms of how everything was handled, and I don’t think that anyone will until that comes out,” said Alexander Kerfoot, the Leafs’ player rep, when asked about his faith in NHLPA leadership.
“My level of faith? It’s a good question,” added teammate Morgan Rielly. “I don’t have a proper answer for that. We’re going to let this take its course for now and we’re going to probably have to reassess at some point.”
The fallout continues elsewhere with Aldrich’s name having been formally X’d out on the Stanley Cup over the weekend, following a request from Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz to have him removed from the 2009-10 winner’s panel. The trophy is scheduled to make its first public showing since that engraving on Thursday during a pre-scheduled appearance at a minor-hockey tournament in suburban Chicago, of all places.
Three senior members of the Blackhawks organization from 2010 have been removed from their jobs since a 107-page report on the handling of Beach’s allegations was made public last week — Stan Bowman, Al MacIsaac and Joel Quenneville — and Simmonds hopes that current players look at what happened here and help drive systemic changes within the industry.
Too often during his career he’s seen players unwilling to speak up when something bad happened.
“I think everyone within locker rooms right now are open to this conversation,” said Simmonds. “This is something that’s incredibly saddening. To see that happen, I know I was in the league back then when that happened and it just rips my heart out to see what Kyle Beach has gone through, and that he’s had to sit with that pain and that anguish for the last 11 years.
“Not being able to speak his mind, speak his truth; I think that’s a shame.”
The part of Beach’s interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead that touched him most is when Beach apologized to a 16-year-old who was later assaulted by Aldrich.
When Simmonds heard that, he teared up.