Acommissioned by the NHL Players’ Association concluded that general manager Don Fehr and others were not liable for wrongdoing when they failed to act on a report that had been sexually assaulted by a staff member in 2010.
A law firm hired to investigate Fehr and the union’s actions in 2010 and 2011 concluded that miscommunication and a misunderstanding were behind the inaction after Kyle Beach reported being assaulted by.
“Ultimately, the inability to act on Beach’s reports stems from a lack of communication,” the firm Cozen O’Connor wrote in a 20-page report released Friday by the NHLPA. “We cannot identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failure of policy or procedure by Fehr, NHLPA staff, or the (NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program) regarding the handling of Beach’s reports. .”
The NHLPA board saw the report last week. The players voted in favor of its publication.
The union launched the investigation in November after an independent inquiry into the Blackhawks’ mishandling of the allegations raised questions about what Fehr and others knew at the time and why they failed to act. Aldrich then told investigators the meeting was consensual, but the scandal rocked the Blackhawks and led to sweeping changes in the front office and ripple effects across the NHL.
The latest investigation included reviews of approximately 20,000 emails and phone records from 2010 and 2011 and included interviews with 11 witnesses, including Dr. Brian Shaw of the Addiction and Behavioral Health Program. Beach and an unidentified player who said he had inappropriate conversations with Aldrich both declined to be interviewed.
The company acknowledged the difficulty of reconstructing events from 11 years ago and said the conclusions were based on “patently imperfect and incomplete recollections of a few individuals, not corroborated by documentary evidence”. The report also acknowledged the likelihood that the witnesses’ recollections were “inevitably influenced” by a separate report which examined the team’s role.
Officer Ross Gurney told investigators he was sure he described Aldrich as a “paedophile” or a “sex predator” in a conversation with Fehr to warn him about Aldrich’s behavior after the coach was hired by USA Hockey to work in a tournament.
Fehr said he would have remembered if it had happened. He repeatedly told investigators that he did not recall being told about the incident when it happened. Investigators also determined that Fehr’s few comments regarding the allegations “were consistent with his assertion.”
Shaw told investigators he believed his conversation with Beach was “a privileged communication between a potential patient and a therapist” and that he was unable to reveal its contents without the player’s consent, which he claimed not to have received.
The company said it provided the union’s general counsel with a series of recommendations for additional measures that could be put in place to better handle similar situations in the future. The NHLPA did not immediately respond to a message requesting information about those recommendations, which were not included in the report.