By The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that the league will not discipline Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, saying he is not responsible for the Chicago Blackhawks’ handling of sexual assault allegations against a former assistant coach.
The announcement comes after Cheveldayoff met with Bettman in New York to discuss whether Cheveldayoff had a role in the Blackhawks’ response to sexual assault allegations made by player Kyle Beach against Brad Aldrich during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run.
Bettman said Cheveldayoff, who was the Blackhawks’ assistant GM at the time, was not a member of the senior leadership team.
“While on some level, it would be easiest to paint everyone with any association to this terrible matter with the same broad brush, I believe that fundamental fairness requires a more in-depth analysis of the role of each person,” Bettman said in a statement.
“Kevin Cheveldayoff was not a member of the Blackhawks senior leadership team in 2010, and I cannot, therefore, assign to him responsibility for the club’s actions, or inactions.
“He provided a full account of his degree of involvement in the matter, which was limited exclusively to his attendance at a single meeting, and I found him to be extremely forthcoming and credible in our discussion.”
The NHL’s announcement comes a day after former Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, who was the head coach of the Blackhawks at the time of the alleged incident, resigned after a meeting with Bettman.
Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks’ general manager and president of hockey operations, and top executive Al MacIsaac resigned shortly after a report on the investigation was released Tuesday.
“First and most importantly, I want to express my support of and empathy for Kyle Beach and all he has had to endure since 2010,” Cheveldayoff said in a release. “He was incredibly brave coming forward to tell his story. We can all use his courage as an inspiration to do a better job of making hockey a safer space for anyone who wants to play the game.
“Further, I want to express my gratitude to the National Hockey League for the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Gary Bettman, in person, and directly share my role in and recollection of events while I was assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.”
The third-party investigation by law firm Jenner & Block was commissioned by the Blackhawks in response to two lawsuits filed against the franchise: one by Beach and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The report stated that Bowman, MacIsaac, Quenneville, Cheveldayoff, then-team president John McDonough, former executive vice-president Jay Blunk and mental skills coach Jim Gary met to discuss the incident on May 23, 2010, right after Chicago won the Western Conference final.
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations before McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 _ a delay that violated the team’s sexual harassment policy, according to Schar.
Bettman said he found that Cheveldayoff was the “lowest ranking” member of the Blackhawks at the meeting, and that his participation was “extremely limited in scope and substance.”
“In fact, in the course of the investigation, most of the participants in the May 23 meeting did not initially recall that Cheveldayoff was even present,” Bettman said.
Cheveldayoff has been GM of the Jets since the team relocated to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011 and has built a habitual playoff club out of the husk of the underachieving Thrashers.
The Jets made the playoffs once in the first six seasons after relocating to Manitoba’s capital, but Cheveldayoff eventually built a contending team by adding players such as Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and top forwards Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers through savvy drafting.
The Jets have also had high-profile fallouts with former stars Dustin Byfuglien and Patrik Laine under Cheveldayoff’s watch.
Winnipeg is off to a 4-2-1 start this season and next faces the Sharks on Saturday night in San Jose.
— With files from The Associated Press