CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010, according to an investigation commissioned by the franchise that cast a shadow over the NHL on Tuesday.
Stan Bowman, the general manager and president of hockey operations, resigned in the wake of the findings by an outside law firm, and the NHL fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.” Al MacIsaac, one of the team’s top hockey executives, also is out.
Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who were with the Blackhawks when the sexual assault allegations were first reported, were named in the damning report.
The Panthers declined to comment, citing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s plans to meet with Quenneville. There was no immediate word from the Jets on Cheveldayoff’s status.
Cheveldayoff had said in a statement released by the Jets in July that he “had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement.”
The Blackhawks hired Jenner & Block to conduct what they called an independent review in response to two lawsuits filed against the franchise: one by a player identified as John Doe alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The report, which team CEO Danny Wirtz called “both disturbing and difficult to read,” was released by the franchise. Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said the firm found no evidence that Wirtz or his father, Rocky, who owns the team, were aware of the allegations before the former player’s lawsuit was brought to their attention ahead of its filing.
“It is clear that in 2010 the executives of this organization put team performance above all else,” Danny Wirtz said. “John Doe deserved better from the Blackhawks.”
In a statement released through his attorney, Susan Loggans, John Doe said he was “grateful for the accountability” shown by the Blackhawks.
“Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization, I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery,” John Doe said.
Bowman said he was stepping aside because he didn’t want to be a distraction for the team. He also stepped down from his position as GM of the U.S men’s hockey team at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“Eleven years ago, while serving in my first year as general manager, I was made aware of potential inappropriate behavior by a then-video coach involving a player,” he said in a statement released by the Blackhawks. “I promptly reported the matter to the then-president and CEO who committed to handling the matter.
“I learned this year that the inappropriate behavior involved a serious allegation of sexual assault. I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so.”
According to the report, the encounter between John Doe, then 20, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010. Doe told investigators it was not consensual, and Aldrich said it was.
On May 23, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, former team president John McDonough, former executive vice president Jay Blunk and then-assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with then-coach Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.
Schar said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.”
“What is clear is that after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with a player no action was taken for three weeks,” Schar said.
According to the report, Bowman recalled that, after learning of the incident, Quenneville shook his head and said it was hard for the team to get to where it was, and they could not deal with this issue now.
The report found no evidence of any investigation or contact with human resources before McDonough informed the then-director of human resources about the allegations on June 14 – a delay that violated the Blackhawks’ sexual harassment policy and had “consequences,” according to Schar.
“During that period, Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the team,” Schar said. “On June 10th, during an evening of celebration after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win the previous day, Aldrich made an unwanted sexual advance towards a Blackhawks intern, who was 22 years old at the time.
“Also after the Stanley Cup win, Aldrich continued to participate in celebrations in the presence of John Doe, who had made the complaint.”
While announcing in July that he would participate in the team’s probe, Quenneville said in a statement that he “first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer.”
Bettman said he would “reserve judgment” on Quenneville and Cheveldayoff, and he plans to meet with them to discuss their roles in the situation.
Aldrich left the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season.
The former player’s lawsuit, filed May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is referred in the document as John Doe is seeking more than $150,000 in damages.
The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.
Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in prison for the Michigan assault.
Jay Cohen And Stephen Whyno/The Associated Press