Players on the Rangers and Islanders expressed support Thursday for former Chicago player Kyle Beach, who revealed himself Wednesday as the player who accused an assistant coach with the team of sexually abusing him in 2010 during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup championship.
"I’m shocked, and it’s a terrible thing that happened,’’ Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad said after the team’s practice Thursday in Greenburgh. "I really feel for him [Beach] and for the victims. It takes a lot of courage to be able to come out and tell his story . . . just a terrible situation that shouldn’t happen.’’
On Thursday night, Joel Quenneville, who was Chicago’s coach in 2010, resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers after meeting earlier in the day with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. According to a report on the incident released on Tuesday, Quenneville had prioritized Chicago’s chase for the Stanley Cup at the time over handling Beach’s accusation.
Bettman issued a statement Thursday night that said, in part:
"The National Hockey League agrees with the decison tonight by Joel Quenneville to resign his duties as head coach of the Panthers. In his former role as Chicago coach, Mr. Quenneville was among many former members of the Club’s senior leadership group who mishandled the 2010 sexual assault claim by former player Kyle Beach against the Club’s then-video coach, Brad Aldrich."
Quenneville’s decision to step down followed the resignation Tuesday of Stan Bowman as Chicago’s general manager. He had been a first-year GM in Chicago in 2010. Al MacIsaac, Chicago’s senior vice president of hockey operations also was removed from his position, and Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was Chicago’s assistant GM in 2010, has a meeting scheduled with Bettman Friday.
Beach, Chicago’s first-round draft pick in 2008, revealed on a television interview with Canada’s TSN network Wednesday that he was John Doe No. 1, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the team for its mishandling and coverup of the alleged incident. Aldrich, a video coach with Chicago in 2010, allegedly assaulted Beach, then 20, during the playoff run that year. Beach said he notified the team at the time, but the team did not take action. Aldrich left the team after the season and is alleged to have assaulted a 16-year-old player in his next job.
Islanders captain Anders Lee said he watched Beach’s interview. "I saw parts of it,’’ Lee said Thursday. "My heart goes out to Kyle, his family, and I commend him greatly for speaking up about this. Obviously, no one should have to go through a situation like that . . . You don’t ever want to see that kind of situation evolve into what happened.’’
"You can see it’s very emotional,’’ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "Your heart reaches out to him. Any young man shouldn’t have to go through it. The goal . . . our goal as coaches, players, staff, you just have to make sure that doesn’t happen again. That’s all. We can’t fix it. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’
In his interview, Beach criticized the NHL and the NHL Players Association for not doing enough to help him when he reported the incident. NHLPA president Don Fehr issued a statement Thursday expressing support for Beach, acknowledging the players union should have done more.
"Kyle Beach has been through a horrific experience and has shown true courage in telling his story. There is no doubt that the system failed to support him in his time of need, and we are part of that system."
"In his media interview, Mr. Beach stated that several months after the incident he told someone at the NHLPA the details of what happened to him. He is referring to one of the program doctors with the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. While this program is confidential between players and the doctors, the grave nature of this incident should have resulted in further action on our part. The fact that it did not was a serious failure. I am truly sorry, and I am committed to making changes to ensure it does not happen again."
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said he hopes Beach, 31, can heal now that the incident has been made public. "I watched that press conference last night,’’ Gallant said. "It’s really tough to watch, and really chokes you up."
With Neil Best