Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

The NHL is counting on people not having long attention spans.

Whenever there’s a scandal in the league there’s hand-wringing and outrage for a week or two, promises made that whatever abhorrent behaviour took place will never happen again and then…nothing. Once the furour dies down, the news cycle moves on and the changes everyone expected to take place are forgotten or buried. It’s an effective strategy for making embarrasing controversies disappear for a while but it’s also the worst kind of rinse and repeat because no one evolves.

“We must change the tone immediately.”

– Jocelyn Thibault, Hockey Quebec executive director

Most recently we saw it with Kyle Beach and the Chicago Blackhawks’ failure to protect him against a sexual predator committing unspeakable deeds right inside their own walls. When Beach came forward publicly a decade after being assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich, the public shaming finally became too much for the NHL to bear and a few heads rolled – namely Stan Bowman, Joel Quennevile and Al MacIsaac. They all deserved it but that alone won’t fix much.

A few weeks later the sum total of that action was that those men became sacrifical lambs and their dismissals helped accelerate the process of getting the league back to business as usual. It certainly didn’t seem like it was really meant to help Beach or address any systemic issues in the NHL culture.

Just look at the ongoing civil case involving Beach and the Blackhawks. It’s devolved into standard posturing and denials by the team’s lawyers, as well as from the league head office. There is no compassion or accountability, just financial mitigation, which really only reinforces the psychological scars the initial abandonment caused the victim in the first place.

And let’s not pretend this is anything but standard operating procedure for the NHL. This strategy was the league’s default when Akim Aliu came forward two years ago with similarly horrific stories of racial abuse by former coach Bill Peters.

All that ended up happening was Peters was scapegoated – like the ex-Hawks staffers – and the league announced it would investigate further. But no one has followed through on its pledge to partner with Aliu and his organization the Hockey Diversity Alliance to improve racial relations around the league or sport.

In fact, people around Aliu busted the NHL on a lie a few weeks ago when they revealed he hasn’t had any meaningful communication with anyone from the league since promises were made to attack the problem.

“The investigation has been completed,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a news conference a few weeks ago. “We’ve been in touch with Akim’s representatives about next steps, if any.”

Aliu’s lawyer eviscerated this claim in another damaging misstep by the league.

“This is news to me & not true,” Ben Meiselas tweeted. “I am Akim’s rep & NHL has not been in touch with us for over a year. Also, investigation was into broader issues of racism Akim experienced entire career in NHL & not limited to Peters. Witnesses we told them about haven’t been contacted.”

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