Coming To Terms With Being A Fan During a Very Heavy Week.
It's been a very heavy week in the world of hockey. While ESPN and other sports sites have reported on what happened 11 years ago with a Chicago Blackhawks player being sexually assaulted by a coach, there's hasn't been much in the mainstream news. In 2010, team management chose to sit on the story for three weeks, in the name of team chemistry. Here's the report from the law firm hired to investigate. (it's graphic and tough to read.)
The story is a coach on the 2009-2010 team, a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season, sexually assaulted a player. Team management became aware of this, but chose not to do anything until after the playoffs. The coach in question was allowed to participate in all the celebrations. His name is on the Stanley Cup.
The player, who in legal actions was simply identified as John Doe, chose to speak this week with TSN in Canada. His name is Kyle Beach. He was a former first-round draft pick. He was 20 years old when the assault happened. Courageously, he told his story. It also is tough to hear.
As many know, I am a big hockey fan and when the Stanley Cup was in Kalamazoo in 2016, I took my share of pictures of the Holy Grail of sports trophies. In fact, one of those pictures is the wallpaper on my phone. I looked at it today, and in between the apps on the screen is the name of the predator in question. (The Blackhawks' owner today asked the Hockey Hall of Fame to remove his name from the Cup.)
When the management team that ran the Hawks in 2010, took over, their marketing campaign was "One Goal" - a single vision to win, fill the arena, make money and nothing would deter them from that. Having to deal with a sexual assault in the middle of their first serious Cup run would distract from that. Style over humanity.
I have two sons who both were 20 years old just a few years ago. They both played sports. I understand team culture. One player from that 2010 season said he found it hard to believe that everyone on the team didn't know what was going on. Here's one of the first questions that came to mind. Aren't teammates supposed to support each other? I know these are mostly young twenty-somethings from small towns, but hardly anyone had the guts to say something, to support their teammate who was assaulted by an authority figure?
Kyle Beach was failed by the team president on down through the coach. And he was failed by most of his teammates. All of these people put winning above everything. In his interview, Beach said several teammates did stand by his side, several assistant coaches, too. But the system completely failed.
And while it's tertiary to the story, here's where many of us fans have to decide what we do next. It's not enough to say the right things about Beach. He and another victim of the predator, in Michigan, have been through hell. Presumably, settlements will be announced soon, though money will not be what heals the harm done. As observers from the outside, we have to come to terms with all this, too. This is more than an asterisk. I don't know the answer. It's going to take some time to figure all this out, much like looking at professional sports in the 1940's and 50's. The Brooklyn Dodgers signed and added Jackie Robinson in 1947. But there were teams that didn't not have their first Black player until almost 1960. I guess we come to terms with all this over time.