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Pittsburgh Penguins settle sexual assault case as NHL issues rage on

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Los Angeles Kings
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The fall out from Kyle Beach’s explosive sexual assault accusations continues.

Last week, lawyers for Erin Skalde held a press conference detailing her accusations against the Pittsburgh Penguins from a traumatic event she allegedly experienced in 2018.

Skalde is the wife of Jarrod Skalde, who was an assistant coach for the Penguins’ minor league affiliate at the time. Her claim states that she was the victim of a sexual assault by former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John “Clark” Donatelli in 2018. She says the incident occurred when both Skaldes and Donatelli were in a car in Rhode Island for a team road trip. Even though Donatelli left the team in 2019, a suit was first filed in Pennsylvania in November 2020.

Similar to the Chicago Blackhawks’ saga, the Skaldes claim that Bill Guerin, who was the Penguins assistant general manager at the time and oversaw the AHL affiliate, told them to keep quiet about the sexual assault when he learned about it.

Guerin is now the general manager of the Minnesota Wild, and named as a defendant in a potential civil suit the Skaldes would file, alongside Pittsburgh Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle, Donatelli, and the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. The organization claims they acted swiftly, conducting a 72-hour investigation into the sexual assault claim and dismissing Donatelli soon after.

Pittsburgh Penguins settle sexual assault case

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Though dispute remains regarding Jarrod Skalde’s dismissal from the team in 2020 (he says it was a fall out from the allegations, they claim COVID-19 cuts), the suit officially reached a settlement, avoiding a civil suit for everyone involved.

A press conference was called and quickly postponed on the heels of the Skalde’s lawyers announcing that “a second woman who detailed a similar sexual assault by Donatelli on a different date and different time in a different location has retained our law firm.” At the time of writing, no other information is available on the second woman.

“The Penguins and Skaldes have agreed to resolve all claims,” the team said in a statement Tuesday. “Through this resolution, the Penguins hope to bring closure to the Skaldes, provide some measure of peace, and continue to encourage and promote a culture of openness, accountability, and respect at all levels of professional sports.” – Pittsburgh Penguins, in a statement

Erin Skalde also released a statement, saying “the events of the last three years have been deeply challenging, and my hope is to now move forward as an advocate for others.”

While the Skalde settlement comes weeks after Kyle Beach’s explosive interview, their sexual assault claims come on the same day that the Chicago Blackhawks make headlines yet again.

On November 8, TSN aired an interview with the high school hockey player who was sexually assaulted by Brad Aldrich in 2013. She offers a harrowing account of how the sexual assault affected her son, and her reaction to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s handling of the scandal.

Shortly after the interview aired, TSN producer Rick Westhead tweeted that one of John Doe 2’s attorneys, Susan Loggins, contacted the NHL and Gary Bettman to ask for support (specifically, provide therapy) following the sexual assault. At the time of the original tweet, the league had not responded. But, he has since added to the tweet chain to provide an update.

“Update: The NHL has informed a lawyer for ‘John Doe 2’ that the league will not cover costs of counselling/therapy for him and his family. An NHL employee wrote in an email the league will leave that matter for the Blackhawks to manage, JD2’s lawyer said,” he wrote. “Important perspective: An NHL exec reminded me over the weekend that while Gary Bettman is the face of the NHL, he works for the league’s 32 team owners. They share joint accountability in how the NHL responds to scandals including sexual abuse,” he added in a second tweet.

While John Doe 2’s mother praised Kyle Beach for coming forward and allowing others to speak up, many are extremely critical of how the NHL and Gary Bettman are handling these situations, as he refuses to acknowledge any kind of moral responsibility. Responses to Westhead’s tweet chain express sentiments of heartbreak for the sexual assault victims, but also express disappointment in Bettman and calls for his resignation.

Expect more fall out as news surfaces that disgraced video coach Brad Aldrich was granted two more opportunities to spend time with the Stanley Cup while on probation–after being released from prison and was a registered sex offender. His name has since been etched off of the Stanley Cup.