'I really felt a willingness and an urgency': Sheldon Kennedy meets with Winnipeg Jets leaders

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Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy was in Winnipeg Thursday for a ceremony celebrating his induction into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.  (Tyson Koschik/CBC  - image credit)
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy was in Winnipeg Thursday for a ceremony celebrating his induction into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. (Tyson Koschik/CBC - image credit)

A longtime champion in the fight against sexual abuse in hockey says he believes the leadership of the Winnipeg Jets is ready to join him in his cause.

Sheldon Kennedy said he had a three-hour meeting with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and chairman Mark Chipman on Thursday, the same day he was to be inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

"I really felt a willingness and an urgency to get better and become leaders in this community and this province," Kennedy said in an interview with CBC News before the ceremony.

The meeting comes two days after Cheveldayoff answered questions for the first time following a report on Chicago's mishandling of allegations of sexual assault against former video coach Brad Aldrich, during the team's Stanley Cup run in 2010.

Aldrich continued to work with the Chicago team throughout the finals. The report said he was then allowed to resign from his position, without an investigation into what happened.

Cheveldayoff was assistant general manager in Chicago during that time.

In a news conference alongside Chipman on Tuesday, Cheveldayoff said while he was in a meeting where allegations were discussed in May 2010, he wasn't aware of all of the details of what happened until this year. He believed at the time the allegations were dealt with by those above him, he said.

Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press
Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press

"Having had the opportunity to reflect after reading the report, and after seeing Kyle's moving interview, I am sorry that I cannot change what took place or how the process was handled back then, but I can learn from this and make sure that this never happens again," said Cheveldayoff.

On Tuesday, the Jets GM committed to making sure there are safe spaces and systems in place to ensure what happened in Chicago doesn't happen again.

Chipman said he would use his influence within the NHL to acknowledge there are systemic problems and improve resources to help "prevent future occurrences and foster a culture where victims of sexual harassment and abuse can safely share their stories and facilitate healing for survivors."

Kennedy is a survivor of sexual assault and the is the co-founder of Respect Group. The organization's mission is aimed at providing training to help people identify and prevent abuse, harassment, discrimination and bullying.

After meeting with Chipman and Cheveldayoff, Kennedy said he believes they are committed to helping to create a change in culture.

"We had a wonderful conversation and I'm very confident that a leadership vision is going to come out in regards to these issues and all these issues that impact us personally," he said.

"We've got to get a pot boiling before we can start boiling the ocean league-wide. But I think you know our focus is to help the willing and right now I think that there's a real desire to get this right within Winnipeg, within the ownership and the leadership within the Winnipeg Jets."

The NHL announced last week it wouldn't be disciplining Cheveldayoff for what happened in Chicago.

"I think that Kevin Cheveldayoff will bring more good to these issues and change … being part of the organization then he would by not being part of the organization," said Kennedy.

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