Apr 15, 2022
NHLPA investigation clears Fehr of fault in handling Beach allegations
Toronto law firm says it can’t identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failure in handling of former Blackhawks player’s sexual abuse allegations.
TSN Senior Correspondent
Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault
A Toronto law firm hired to investigate NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr’s response to concerns raised by two agents about former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach’s alleged sexual assault concluded it couldn’t identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failures by Fehr or his union colleagues.
In a 20-page report published Friday afternoon, investigators with the Toronto law firm Cozen O’Connor wrote that concerns raised in 2011 about former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich were not pursued “on account of miscommunication and misunderstanding, rather than any individual or systemic failure.”
The report highlighted multiple instances where Fehr said he could not recall receiving emails or having phone conversations about Aldrich, including one with agent Ross Gurney who said he warned Fehr that Aldrich was a “pedophile” or “sexual predator.”
Beach alleged he was sexually assaulted during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs by Aldrich. The team and Beach settled his negligence lawsuit last December. Before that litigation was settled, the Blackhawks hired Chicago law firm Jenner & Block to investigate Beach’s allegations. The NHL team disclosed Jenner & Block’s findings in October 2021.
The NHLPA voted in November to commission a third-party investigation of Fehr after details about his connection to Beach’s case first emerged in the Jenner & Block report.
Cozen & O’Connor’s investigation involved the review of about 20,000 emails and phone records from 2010 and 2011 and included interviews of 11 witnesses. NHL team player representatives received the report last Friday and voted over the past three days to make the report public.
The Cozen O’Connor investigators wrote that Beach and a former Blackhawks player who was referred to as “Black Ace 1” in the Jenner & Block report both refused to meet with them, which hampered their investigation.
NHL player agent Ross Gurney told Cozen O’Connor investigators that he phoned Fehr during the 2011 Women’s Under-18 World Championship in Stockholm with a warning about Aldrich, who was working with Team USA at the tournament.
“Gurney told us that he recalled describing Aldrich as either a ‘pedophile’ or ‘sexual predator’ in his call with Fehr but did not provide Fehr with any details of what had allegedly transpired between Beach and Aldrich,” the Cozen O’Connor report says.
Fehr denied having any recollection of the call to investigators.
“In our interviews, Fehr, an experienced lawyer, repeatedly made the point that if Gurney had either described Aldrich as a pedophile or sexual predator or requested him to contact USA Hockey, he would have remembered it,” the report says.
Three months later, agent Joe Resnick emailed Fehr. At the time, Resnick represented Black Ace 1.
“I know you have spoken with [Ross Gurney] regarding an incident with [Kyle Beach] and a Chicago staff member during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year,” Resnick wrote in an Apr. 18, 2011, email to Fehr.
“[Black Ace 1] was involved as well and I got him in touch with [a therapist affiliated with the NHLPA] approximately 2 weeks ago; however, I did want to have a follow up with yourself.”
According to cell phone records cited by the Cozen O’Connor report, Fehr and Resnick also had a 14-minute phone call after Resnick’s Apr. 18, 2011, email.
“Fehr and Resnick were separately shown the records, and neither had any recollection of the call,” the Cozen O’Connor report says.
Likewise, Fehr said he did not recall receiving the email from Resnick.
Fehr has confirmed that Beach was referred in 2010 to Dr. Brian Shaw, a psychologist and program administrator with the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program.
Beach told TSN in an interview last October that Dr. Shaw told him he would make sure that USA Hockey was informed that Aldrich was a sexual predator.
Neither Fehr nor Dr. Shaw contacted USA Hockey about Aldrich, said a person familiar with the matter.
Cozen O’Connor investigators wrote that Dr. Shaw offered a far more detailed recollection of his telephone call with Beach than he did in connection with the Jenner & Block Report.
“Dr. Shaw further recalled to us that during his call, Beach provided a graphic account of the alleged incident with Aldrich, declined any opportunity for counseling, and instead inquired only whether someone from the NHLPA was going to contact USA Hockey,” the Cozen O’Connor report says.
“Dr. Shaw recalled to us that he reassured Beach that someone, either from the NHLPA or Beach’s agent, would — meaning that he assumed someone would — but at no point told him that he (Dr. Shaw) would do so, nor did he identify anyone who would.”
After Aldrich was allowed to resign from the Blackhawks in the summer of 2010, he went on to coach high school hockey in Houghton, Mich. In 2013, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old player on his team and sentenced to nine months in jail and 60 months’ probation.
Beach, who has called for the NHLPA to fire Fehr, has said that if Fehr and Dr. Shaw had done “what they are supposed to do, then that teenaged boy in Michigan probably does not get sexually assaulted."