Seravalli: NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr under fire from critics

Another huge domino fell in the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks’ cover-up of the sexual assault on Thursday when former coach Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers after this week’s investigative report revealed that he had actively advocated for the removal of the assault on player Kyle Beach. by video trainer and serial sexual predator Brad Aldrich until after the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Will there be another?

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was cleared of all penalties by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday. Bettman confirmed that Cheveldayoff was the lowest ranked staff member in the room on May 23, 2010 – when the Chicago front office met and determined he would prioritize the team’s quest for the Stanley Cup rather than the safety and well-being of team members. Bettman said it would be unfair to paint Cheveldayoff with the « same wide brush » and that he could not « hold him responsible for the actions or inactions of the club, » adding that Cheveldayoff’s direct and credible approach had aid.

Cheveldayoff is the only man in the room still working in the NHL: General Manager Stan Bowman, President and CEO John McDonough, Executive Vice President of Business Operations Jay Blunk, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Al MacIsaac and now Quenneville are all unemployed.

Compared to Quenneville and Cheveldayoff, the level of scrutiny was quite low on the role that NHL Players’ Association General Manager Donald Fehr played in the investigation report.

The temperature has been raised on Fehr, however, now under increasing fire both internally and externally after closer inspection of the Jenner & Block report.

Sources tell Daily confrontation that internal support for Fehr among NHLPA staff waned in light of Fehr’s « lack of recollection » of the contact that was established with him in the incident.

Internal questions have been raised as to whether Fehr will survive or should survive the week at the helm of the players’ union.

« I know I brought every detail to someone from NHLPA, who I was put in contact with after, I think, two different people spoke to Don Fehr, » Beach said in a touching interview. this week, publicly revealing himself as the victim. « For [Fehr] turning his back on the players when his only job is to protect the players at all costs, I don’t know how that can be your leader.

The crux of the matter: Is Fehr systematically complicit in allowing Aldrich to continue to roam freely in the hockey community as a sexual predator?

According to the findings of the investigation, Fehr was contacted several times by different parties and did not act.

Fehr was officially hired by the NHLPA on December 18, 2010, more than six months after the Beach assault in Chicago.

Shortly after taking office, the report states that Fehr was contacted by a Beach « confidant » who was « upset that Aldrich appears to have a position with USA Hockey » at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. from December 25, 2010 to January 6, 2011.

« [Beach] didn’t want Aldrich to « keep doing this » to other people, especially children, and asked the confidant to help him, « the report said.

At the time of the assault in May 2010, Beach was not a contributing member of the NHLPA, even though he was on an NHL roster due to his recall to the playoffs as a « Black Ace » or training team player. NHL players pay union dues for each roster day during the regular season.

« The confidant recalled that Fehr replied that he knew people from USA Hockey, that the NHLPA would look into the situation and that the NHLPA could offer its support, » the report said. “The confidant recalled that Fehr had suggested that [Beach] may speak to a therapist affiliated with NHLPA even if [Beach] was not a member of the AJLNH.

Asked on October 7, 2021 as part of the investigation, “Fehr said he did not recall a conversation with [Beach’s] confidant, although he did not deny that such a conversation took place.

About four months after being contacted for the first time by Beach’s “confidant”, another “professional acquaintance” contacted Fehr by email on April 18, 2011.

Daily confrontation confirmed that Beach’s “confidant” and “professional knowledge” of another player referenced in the Jenner & Block report are in fact NHLPA Certified Agents. Players’ agents are among the lifeblood of the union and one of the most important constituencies in Fehr.

According to documents obtained in the course of the investigation, the professional knowledge officer wrote to Fehr in an email of April 18, 2011:

« I know you spoke with [Beach’s confidant] concerning an incident with [Beach] and a staff member during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. [Another player] was also involved and I put him in touch with [a therapist affiliated with the NHLPA] about 2 weeks ago; However, I wanted to follow up with you yourself.

According to the report, the NHLPA provided Beach with a therapist in the fall of 2010, who, in an interview, said Beach « had met or talked with Beach at least once » but had no record. .

The NHLPA-affiliated therapist, whose name was not disclosed in the report, should also be criticized for his inaction in reporting Aldrich to authorities. Sources tell Daily confrontation the affiliation of the therapist to the AJLNH can be terminated following the report.

However, the fact that Beach received sufficient advice or help through the NHLPA is not really the crux of the matter.

Fehr is not part of the cover-up. He wasn’t even working for the NHLPA when the Blackhawks blatantly failed. The question arises as to exactly what details were presented to Fehr by the « confidant » or agent that would or should trigger a response and action from Fehr. Was he given a bloody description or did he just say there had been an incident? It is also not clear whether the NHLPA-affiliated therapist informed Fehr of anything that was outside the mandate of the investigation.

Regardless, there is no doubt that Fehr was negligent and now guilty of botching the follow-up – asking more questions, notifying USA Hockey, or informing the proper authorities.

After resigning from the Blackhawks in 2010, Aldrich continued to work with USA Hockey, the Univ. hockey teams from Notre Dame, Miami University of Ohio and Houghton (Mich.) High School. In October 2013, Aldrich was criminally charged in Houghton, Mich. With third and fourth degree criminal sexual conduct involving a college student. He was convicted in December 2013 of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to nine months in Houghton County Jail and five years probation for his sexual assault on a high school hockey player.

The NHLPA has not presented any information or evidence that Fehr has pursued the case. When asked by Jenner & Block investigators, Fehr said he did not recall the conversations or the email, but did not deny that they took place or were delivered.

When asked for further comment, the NHLPA pointed to a statement by Fehr delivered to media inboxes at 11:53 p.m. ET Wednesday after Beach voiced its criticism of Fehr:

“Kyle Beach had a horrible experience and showed real courage in telling his story. There is no doubt that the system has failed to support him in his difficult times, and we are part of that system.

“In his media interview, Mr. Beach said that several months after the incident, he told someone from NHLPA the details of what happened to him. It refers to one of the doctors in the NHL / NHLPA Player Assistance Program. Although this program is confidential between players and medics, the seriousness of this incident should have prompted further action on our part. The failure to do so was a serious failure. I am very sorry and I am committed to making changes so that this does not happen again. « 

AJLNH sources said Daily confrontation the decline in internal support for Fehr may be a mixture of blame for his unchallenged mismanagement of this situation – coupled with the general desire for a new voice in leadership.

Now 73, Fehr was hired in 2010 to stabilize the NHLPA and prepare for an upcoming lockout and collective agreement as a seasoned expert in wartime labor and general law. Since then, Fehr has collected more than $ 30 million in wages, extended a collective agreement, negotiated a new collective agreement in 2020, and is now embarking on a new six-year period of social peace with no clear succession plan in place.

Will the important findings of this week’s investigation be enough to push Fehr out the door? Would Fehr even go quietly, or ask his trusted divisional representative staff to answer any questions since they’ve already been deployed?

These are the questions being debated internally.

Only the player-led board of directors can oust Fehr based on the organizational structure of the NHLPA. It’s still unclear whether the board, made up of a representative of the voting players from each of the 32 teams, will investigate further or pressure Fehr to become the next domino to fall. .

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