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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Rangers, Islanders react to Blackhawks sex-abuse scandal

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Like everyone else in the hockey world, the Rangers and Islanders saw Kyle Beach’s interview on Wednesday night. And like everyone else, they were shaken up.

“It’s really tough to watch,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “And really chokes you up just as a person watching it.”

Beach, in an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead, came forward as the John Doe accusing former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich of sexual assault. The interview came a day after the Jenner & Block report detailed his allegations and a subsequent cover-up by Chicago’s top brass in 2010, including current Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, as well as former Blackhawks CEO John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac.

McDonough was fired in April 2020, in a matter unrelated to the investigation. Bowman and MacIsaac left the organization on Tuesday after the report was released. Ramifications for Quenneville and Cheveldayoff have yet to be decided, with both scheduled to meet with commissioner Gary Bettman.

The report, and subsequent interview, has prompted outcry and self-examination from the league’s players and coaches.

“I’m shocked and it’s a terrible thing that has happened,” Rangers alternate captain Mika Zibanejad said. “I really feel for him and the victims. It takes a lot of courage to be able to come out and tell his story.”

Rangers Mika Zibanejad
Rangers center Mika Zibanejad
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“My heart goes out to Kyle, his family and commend him greatly for speaking up about this,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “Obviously no one should have to go through a situation like that. Extremely tough. So regarding the details of it, it’s a little tough for me to say. But you don’t ever want to see that kind of situation evolve to what had happened.

“Whatever we can do as a group, everywhere, just to kinda make sure that these things don’t happen again. I think we try to create something around here where it’s a lot of open dialogue, people feel safe [with] one another and that’s the kind of environment we want to have.”

The report said that Aldrich was given a choice between being investigated or leaving the Blackhawks. He chose to leave, receiving a glowing performance review, and got a job coaching a high school team in Houghton, Mich. Three years later, he was charged with sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old boy there, ultimately pleading guilty and getting a nine-month jail sentence. Beach tearfully apologized about that incident in his interview.

Islanders Anders Lee
Islanders wing Anders Lee
AP

“Our goal as coaches, players, staff, all that, we just gotta make sure that doesn’t happen,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s all. We can’t fix it. We just gotta make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Quenneville, who allegedly put off investigating the incident so the team could focus on the Stanley Cup — which it eventually won — was allowed to coach the Panthers on Wednesday night against Boston. He declined to speak with the media afterward.

“I witnessed meetings right after I reported it to [skills coach] James Gary that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office,” Beach said on TSN. “There is absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it.”

Blackhawks players have been reluctant to criticize Bowman or MacIsaac, with captain Jonathan Toews telling media on Wednesday, “Stan and Al … they’re not directly complicit in the activities that happened.”

Kyle Beach Blackhawks
Kyle Beach playing for the Blackhawks in 2010.
Getty Images

Beach also said that he reported the incident to the NHLPA and spoke to an individual there, but nothing came of it.

Asked about whether the union needs to do better, Zibanejad demurred.

“I think it just goes in general,” he said. “I haven’t heard the full story from the NHLPA obviously, but I think it’s just these things should obviously never happen.”

— Additional reporting from Mollie Walker

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