CHICAGO — An independent investigation into the NHL Players Association’s response to former Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach’s sexual assault allegation couldn’t find “any wrongdoing” in how executive director Don Fehr and others handled the complaint.
Cozen O’Connor, the Philadelphia-based law firm commissioned to investigate the NHLPA’s handling of Beach’s case in late 2010 and early 2011, released its findings Friday afternoon.
The firm in its report said that after examining NHLPA policies at the time and interviewing people who had contact with the union’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) it “cannot identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failures of policy or procedure by either Fehr, NHLPA personnel, or the SABH program concerning the handling of Beach’s reports.”
Beach reached a settlement with the Blackhawks in December over the team’s handling of a sexual assault allegation he made in May 2010 against Brad Aldrich, the team’s video coach at the time.
Beach sued the Hawks for negligence in May. After initially denying wrongdoing, the team in June commissioned law firm Jenner & Block to conduct an investigation. That report, released in late October, condemned Hawks upper management for failing to act on Beach’s claim until after the 2010 Stanley Cup championship was secured.
In the wake of those findings, Stan Bowman stepped down as Hawks president of hockey operations and general manager, as well as GM of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
The Jenner & Block report prompted the union to hire O’Connor to conduct a review of the NHLPA’s handling of Beach’s case.
The report, which drew on Jenner & Block’s findings and Beach’s TSN interview, adds that “Beach also claimed that he made a similar request in a telephone conversation with Dr. Brian Shaw, a psychologist who serves as one of two administrators for (SABH).”
Beach and “Black Ace 1,” a fellow prospect close to Beach who reportedly also made accusations against Aldrich, declined to cooperate with O’Connor, according to the report.
According to the report, Beach’s then-agent, Ross Gurney, called Fehr in December 2010 — after Beach heard Aldrich had been hired by USA Hockey — to “warn them about Aldrich’s behavior ... but did not provide Fehr with any details of what had allegedly transpired between Beach and Aldrich.”
Fehr “denied having any recollection of the call,” according to the report, and added that “he could not, and would not, have taken — or agreed to take — any further action without being provided with more details regarding the alleged incident, including whether Beach had reported — or was prepared to report — the incident.”
Gurney told investigators that he made only the one phone call to Fehr and didn’t follow up, the report states.
A major point of the report centers around an email from Joe Resnick, “Black Ace 1′s” representative, to Fehr to “relay Black Ace 1′s concerns with unspecified behavior by Aldrich.”
“Resnick is adamant, however, that he was never aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct,” the report states.
O’Connor concluded that “Beach’s warnings about Aldrich were not addressed on account of miscommunication and misunderstanding, rather than any individual or systemic failure.”