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NHL

Kevin Cheveldayoff Played Dumb And The NHL Bought It

during the 2018 NHL Awards nominee media availability at the Encore Las Vegas on June 19, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Current Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was Chicago’s assistant GM when he, with the rest of team leadership, held a meeting to discuss what to do about the sexual assault reports made against then–video coach Brad Aldrich. He was in the room when the allegations were raised, and nothing was done. Those are facts not in dispute.

They are apparently not enough. In a decision that strikes me as utterly baffling, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced today that Cheveldayoff will keep his job, and will not be disciplined for his actions 11 years ago. (Some might describe it as “inaction,” but I don’t care for that formulation. In this case, doing nothing was a choice.)

This is in stark contrast to Joel Quenneville, whose resignation as Florida Panthers head coach was forced by the league Thursday. The difference between the two men? Seniority:

“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,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “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.”

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There are levels of responsibility, yes, but in a situation like this, the only amount of responsibility that should matter is “some.” Cheveldayoff was there, and he was not a fresh-faced intern but an assistant GM with 13 years in the sport as an executive under his belt. If others bore more of the burden to do something, Cheveldayoff‘s share was enough. And if he would have considered it going above and beyond his station to do the right thing—well, isn’t that what “leadership” is? Shouldn’t his lack of it be disqualifying for a man who now runs his own front office?

There is also a glaring disconnect between what Cheveldayoff admitted publicly to knowing and what investigators found. After former player Kyle Beach filed a lawsuit against Chicago this spring, Cheveldayoff released this statement:

“I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks. After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement. As this is a legal matter before the courts, I will not be making any further comment; however, to the extent I am contacted by investigators in this matter, I will cooperate to the best of my ability and knowledge.”

This proved to be weaselly as hell. Here’s how he recalled it to investigators:

Kevin Cheveldayoff, then the Assistant General Manager, recalled that there was a meeting in McDonough’s office before a home game during the Philadelphia series, and not the San Jose series. Regardless of when Cheveldayoff believed the meeting occurred, Cheveldayoff recalled being in a meeting in McDonough’s office regarding Aldrich with others in senior management, including McDonough, Bowman, MacIsaac, and Quenneville. He recalled the group was told that there were allegations that Aldrich was socializing with players outside the arena, Aldrich sent inappropriate texts to players, and Aldrich made unwanted advances on players. Cheveldayoff recalled that John Doe and Black Ace 1 were specifically referenced during the meeting. Cheveldayoff also recalled that he felt shocked at the time because it was not common for coaches and players to socialize, and he believed at the time that the allegations were serious.

He further recalled someone stating that the allegations needed to be investigated and that someone would make sure the two players and Aldrich would be kept separate. Cheveldayoff recalled no other substantive details from the meeting.

If Cheveldayoff‘s carefully worded written statement was not an outright lie, it was at the very least a clear attempt by a person who knows they were in the wrong to downplay the seriousness of what they knew and when, and their own involvement. There may be some regret mixed in with self-preservation. I also don’t really care much about his regrets. An NHL with a reasonable moral baseline for its executives is not one that employs Kevin Cheveldayoff. An NHL committed to making sure there are no more John Does doesn’t allow “I didn’t have an impressive enough job title” as an excuse.