Through my 50-plus years in hockey I’ve always taken pride in the team aspect. It’s the greatest of all team sports — no one can win alone. It demands that teammates contribute in order to achieve success. You have to rely on others; they rely on you. That’s simply the way it works. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.
Yet when Kyle Beach needed support the most, it wasn’t there. He was left alone.
That is inexcusable.
Beach’s powerful and poignant interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead on Wednesday — detailing the lasting impact and lack of action following his allegations of sexual abuse by a Blackhawks video coach in 2010 — points to a massive failure in the hockey system at all levels, a system in which I’ve sat in a number of the seats, from player to scout to executive, and know some of the principles involved in this particular case. And the failure must be addressed in a manner that is different from anything previously done.
I am hopeful that Kyle gets the support he has been denied for so many years, to heal from abuse within the hockey world, and that this finally provides a path to move forward from so many of the antiquated beliefs that somehow still surface. What he has shared took remarkable courage.
So what exactly failed here? Something in the ultimate team game faltered when it was needed most. Somehow the team was not there to support the player.
Early in my playing career, I was asked how to best define the word team. I was the captain of some very effective teams in the mid-1980s, going to the Stanley Cup final twice in a three-year period with the Philadelphia Flyers. I came up with a seven-letter acronym: DCMICCS.
I thought long and hard about what these letters represent, and over the years had many conversations with leaders of all types about changing them. They remain the same.
Discipline starts the entire sequence and is a must for a successful team. The details within a game and the discipline to play within a system are paramount.
Controlled aggression seems like an oxymoron, but playing up on your toes and aggressively without crossing the line is how teams win.
Maximizing talent is key, pushing to achieve your highest potential.
Intensity is a must, in a physical game played on steel blades at high speeds.
Consistency is not just for short periods, but over an 82-game schedule.
Chain of command is everyone understanding where they fall within the organization, and how to take and give direction effectively. The higher you go, the larger the role in creating a culture of support from top to bottom.
Sealing the deal is bringing things home. It’s winning.
Beach was failed by two of these principles.
When a group of managers met to discuss the situation after the Blackhawks beat the Sharks in the Western Conference final in 2010, there was a chain of command in the room. Only those in the room that night are privy to exactly what was said, and the outcome of that conversation. The outcome proved to be wrong. The situation was not handled properly. Accountability wasn’t properly considered. Those in that room understand that now. The mentality of hockey took over.
Sealing the deal, winning the Stanley Cup, became more important than Beach. An organization that had struggled for many seasons, both on and off the ice, was on the verge of the ultimate success and the financial rewards that come with that. They made a choice. The team was the most important thing until it failed one of its own.
What will change the ingrained mentality that has so long been accepted as the culture of hockey? Perhaps Beach’s story will.
That has to be the positive that comes out of this enormous negative. Hockey has to be better. The definition of team has to evolve, and include Kyle Beach.
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