Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds told reporters Wednesday that his faith in the National Hockey League Players’ Association has been shaken due to the handling of Kyle Beach’s sexual assault case against the Chicago Blackhawks.
He also called for increased accountability from across the league and NHLPA.
“I find in the NHL when something happens badly guys are afraid to speak up because of repercussions and that’s something that’s definitely got to change. It’s unacceptable,” Simmonds said.
“More players have got to speak up, more players have got to do their part. We don’t want this to continue to happen as we go down the line here. We’ve got to make it better for the guys that are coming in after us. It’s not about us anymore, it’s about what happens to the young kids that are coming into the league now. I feel everyone must be held accountable – whether it’s the NHL, the NHLPA – everyone has to be accountable, there’s no excuses, and this can’t just be another fleeting moment where it’s here now and gone tomorrow.”
Simmonds said he was in “lockstep” with Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, who spent the majority of his media session after Tuesday night’s game against the Maple Leafs discussing Beach, the Blackhawks organization and the situation’s effect on hockey culture while calling for increased accountability.
"At the end of the day, I just want more players, [with] whatever it is, to take a stand. Because we as players, we can bring change as much as anywhere else. But again, it's difficult for me. I wish more people would step up in the fight because hopefully it's for our kids, for my kids and a lot of players' kids. We want them to succeed and play in this league and we want hockey and the NHL to be as good as possible,” Lehner said.
Lehner was also on a conference call Monday with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr discussing the union’s response to Beach’s 2010 allegations of sexual assault against then-Blackhawls video coach Brad Aldrich.
Fehr and the NHLPA released a statement on Monday saying an investigation conducted by outside legal counsel has been recommended to review how the players’ union originally responded to “the Kyle Beach matter.” A report released by the NHL last week showed Fehr was contacted twice about allegations involving Aldrich. Fehr told investigators he could not recall the conversations.
Simmonds also wondered if an independent organization outside the NHL could be brought in to give players an extra outlet to voice concern over issues that go beyond hockey.
“What I’m going through and what I’m processing in my mind, it’s unacceptable. I don’t know if we can have an independent arbitrator or something like that that’s outside of the league to where players can speak up so that it’s just not in the hands of the teams, of the NHL, so there’s an outside view, an outside scope to where they’re not thinking about whether who’s getting punishment here or who’s going to get taken out of the GM spot or coaching spot or something like that,” he said.
“Because when it comes to sexual assault and a lot of other matters in this league, people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. People shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth, you know, without fear of repercussion.”