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Colour Commentary: The NHL mismanagement of the Kyle Beach case

Though admitting their fault for not doing a proper investigation when the event occurred during the 2010 playoffs, the NHL should still be held accountable for their actions

It’s no surprise to anyone that a sports league’s best interest to stay viable and out of the negative spotlight is to have the most squeaky-clean record as possible. From contractual dispute allegations to concussion protocol, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) is supposed to represent the players when a serious problem occurs. The sole purpose of creating the NHLPA was to have the player’s best interests in mind.

However, the NHL, NHLPA, and the Chicago Blackhawks’ handling of the Kyle Beach sexual assault allegations is nothing short of disappointing for not only the league, but professional sports altogether.

The sexual assault investigation that unfolded graphically depicting the events that took place in 2010 from May 23 to June 14 created a conundrum of he-said-she-said between some permanent and former Blackhawks staff.

The fact of the matter is that both the NHL and NHLPA want this issue to not attain more spotlight than it has already garnered. Ten years ago, this problem came to the attention of not only the Blackhawks front office but the NHLPA as well. Both the team and players’ association did nothing to resolve the situation at the time, failing to acknowledge the potential consequences this would have on the future of the league. Originally listed as John Doe, Beach bravely exposed his identity to place a face to the sexual abuse survivor.

No investigation was established, no aforementioned enquiries made, and no final verdict ever shared. Brad Aldrich was given the freedom to resign and pack his bags to another city, confidently handing out letters of recommendation written by seniors in the Blackhawks organization hence getting a position in the USA hockey program five months after resigning.

Upon interviewing all active parties in the 107-page report, a meeting within the organization was held to discuss the handling of the sexual allegations. Due to the Blackhawks’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup that year, the issue was tossed under the rug in the hopes that the truth would never re-emerge to the surface.

The precariousness for a 21-year-old player is baffling, especially at this level of sport. How does someone succumbing to a horrible experience committed by a member in a position of power get trumped due to the sole fact of winning a Stanley Cup?

An excerpt from the report reads: “it was decided that the group would not alert Human Resources or do anything about the incident during the playoffs so as not to disturb team chemistry.”

That year, the Blackhawks won the Cup, though Aldrich resigned after the playoffs — knowing well what he did, the Blackhawks allowed Aldrich to parade around the city of Chicago hoisting the cup like nothing ever happened.

The question that should be seriously highlighted is why this allegation got tossed under the rug by the league? The proven negligence from the NHL resulted in Aldrich finding a new job and led him to sexually assaulting a minor hockey player. Luckily, that incident did not go unnoticed, resulting in Aldrich receiving a nine-month prison sentence, and five years’ probation.

According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the league takes sexual misconduct very seriously. Though they may be telling the truth, their mishandling of the situation proves otherwise as it seems that they’re trying to silence the narrative and keep things quiet in order to protect the well-being of the league.

For example, in a press conference held online by Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Rick Westhead, the investigative journalist who broke the scandal, only got a chance to ask questions after other reporters highlighted that issue, despite the fact that many reporters had a chance to ask follow-ups 40 minutes into the webcam press conference.

Though the NHL is adamant that this issue should never happen and that they would provide all the necessary resources possible for future players, why would they try and silence the person who would know about the situation the most? How good are the resources they’re providing?

When Beach brought the situation to the attention of former Blackhawks mental skills coach Jim Gary, Beach alleged that in the meeting Gary partially placed blame on him for the incident that had transpired. When a confidant to Beach brought it to the attention of NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr, other than assigning a therapist, the NHLPA did not act on the matter.

An internal investigation is set to take place regarding the NHLPA’s mishandling of the Beach case. This newly sanctioned internal investigation provides no solace for Beach or the underage victim. It’s a way for the league to save face, promoting to the public as a responsible association acknowledging what they haven’t done. If the NHLPA or the league for that matter really cared, Beach‘s experience with a former video coach would have been properly received and been attended to upon acknowledgement.

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Sports

Colour Commentary: Montreal Canadiens hit with reality check

Montreal Canadiens fans are rightfully upset with the team’s start to the 2021-22 season, but should they be surprised?

The Montreal Canadiens — last year’s Stanley Cup finalists — are a bottom-feeding team in the NHL through the opening stretch of the 2021-22 regular season. The storied franchise that was on the precipice of glory last spring can’t even muster two consecutive periods of quality hockey today. 

Canadiens fans are rightfully upset, but should they be surprised? More specifically, was last year’s postseason run simply a fluke, or are the Habs wildly underachieving through the first 10 games of the season? Both perspectives to the aforementioned question carry real weight.

On one end, the Canadiens limped their way into the playoffs last season, showing little to no signs of life before they went on to defeat Toronto, Winnipeg, and Las Vegas in successive playoff rounds. They went into every series as underdogs and played a low-scoring, physical defensive style that relied heavily on Carey Price’s heroics and reputation. And he delivered, despite the inconsistency he displayed through most of the regular season. 

The truth is, among the major sports, hockey has the most parity. A hockey team can essentially go from near mediocrity to greatness in the span of a few weeks, a notion that is so rarely seen in other sports like basketball, for instance. Last season’s Habs were the latest example of how unpredictable hockey can be. Ultimately, the sport’s parity is what draws many fans to it. 

Losing team captain Shea Weber, veteran two-way forward Phillip Danault, and Price to start the season for varying reasons meant losing the Canadiens’ anchors of stability, so a regular season dropoff was to be expected. As a result, this year’s offence is being manned by young, unproven talent into unknown waters. So far, Montreal’s key players — namely, Nick Suzuki and Jeff Petry —  simply haven’t shown up and met expectations. 

Despite the fact the current Canadiens roster barely resembles the veteran squad it suited up during the postseason, there is reason to believe the Habs shouldn’t be as bad as they’ve been. As things currently stand, the Canadiens find themselves situated next to the NHL’s worst teams in the standings, many of which have embraced losing in their hopes of rebuilding. 

On the other hand, the Habs are in a unique and dangerous circumstance, one where they fully intend on remaining competitive but are continually failing to tally wins. This team is teetering between mediocrity and success, and considering the fact that they’ve already dug themselves into a near insurmountable hole, at some point Montreal needs to forget about last year’s Stanley Cup run and think towards the future.  

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Sports

Colour Commentary: The demise of the traditional NBA centre

The NBA has morphed into a purely shooting league, ultimately isolating the traditional big man

I was watching an NBA preseason game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Orlando Magic, and something happened that seems to be a recurring trend in the NBA. Pelicans centre Jonas Valančiūnas received two quick-triggered technical fouls, ultimately leading to his ejection midway through the third quarter. These weak calls weren’t warranted because when I say weak, I mean that they were extremely soft calls towards a seasoned centre in the league. 

Yeah, Valančiūnas can hit the occasional three-pointer, but he’s a traditional meat and potatoes style player who is highly effective in the paint. Though slightly more grizzled than most current centres, he knows his role. He gets rebounds both offensively and defensively, plays defence, initiates in the pick and roll, but with the way modern basketball is played and officiated in the NBA, Valančiūnas is hindered to a certain point.

It’s a shame that traditional centres like Valančiūnas are dwindling. Long gone are the days of Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We will never again witness a team’s playing style tailored for dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan. Not only were these guys the biggest physical players you could lob the ball to, they would secure the win for their respective teams come crunch time.

Basketball is more spread out than ever before, resulting in more long-distance shot attempts from the three-point line. If you add the way referees have begun to call more fouls on centres while favouring shooters, traditional centres nowadays have less control in the paint. They’re now drowned out, becoming backup vocalists instead of lead singers.

Over the last few years, the number of three-point attempts has more than doubled from 14.7 in 2002-03 to 34.6 in 2020-21. Teams like the Houston Rockets have adopted a “small ball” style that doesn’t require a traditional centre. This style prioritizes speed and agility over size and encourages players to shoot from outside.

Refereeing has also become stricter on big men, preventing them from using their size in certain situations. Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid is arguably the only dominant traditional centre left and his team usually receives more personal foul calls in a game than most NBA teams.

You’re probably thinking “Well, Nikola Jokić is dominant, how about him?” Though Jokić is as dominant as a centre gets, he isn’t a traditional centre. He can pass on a dime, space the floor, and is a consistent shooter from deep. Many young centres are now trying to adapt to this model but I shed a tear when I see older players try to change and end up throwing bricks from deep.

The way Embiid soaks up rebounds and scores underneath the basket at will, and with such authority, proves there’s still a chance for big men in today’s NBA. But the centre position will never return to its former glory.

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