The fallout from the Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault scandal officially began on Tuesday with the findings of an investigation into the handling of sexual assault allegations made against a former video coach.
GM Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac are both out of the organization, and the franchise was fined $2 million for “inadequate procedures and mishandling of 2010 matter related to conduct of former video coach Brad Aldrich.”
Bowman resigned on Tuesday, and left his position as GM of the US Olympic team later in the day.
An independent review of the Blackhawks’ handling of the situation — in which Aldrich, a former video coach for the team, was accused of sexually assaulting a player — was performed by former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of Jenner & Block. After interviewing 139 people, it found Bowman, MacIsaac, former team president John McDonough, ex-assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, mental skills coach Jay Blunk and then-head coach Joel Quenneville were all informed of the allegations in May of 2010. Nothing was done until June 14, when McDonough informed the director of HR, and Aldrich was allowed to participate in Stanley Cup celebrations with the unidentified player present.
The investigation revealed no evidence that owner Rocky Wirtz and team CEO Danny Wirtz knew of the allegations.
“The report is both disturbing and difficult to read,” Danny Wirtz told reporters. “It speaks for itself.”
Aldrich was alleged to have sexually assaulted two former players with the Blackhawks, with the front office knowing and doing nothing.
“We must and will do better,” Danny Wirtz said.
An amended lawsuit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times states that Aldrich raped one player after luring him to his apartment “under the premise that Aldrich would go over game clips.”
According to the lawsuit, Aldrich threatened the player’s NHL career if he didn’t go through with the non-consensual sexual activity. Paul Vincent, another skills coach, allegedly informed executives about Aldrich, but the executives allegedly refused to notify the police.
One witness said the decision was in McDonough’s hands, according to Schar.
“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 the player,” Bowman said in a statement. “I promptly reported the matter to the then-President and CEO [McDonough] 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.”
TSN reported in June that Aldrich’s sexual assault of the players was an “open secret” within the Blackhawks organization.
Schar also said that Aldrich made an unwanted sexual advance on a Blackhawks intern after the organization had been made aware of the initial allegation against John Doe.
“Brad would routinely befriend young interns and invite them to his apartment in Chicago to watch March Madness basketball and other sports,” a marketing official told TSN. “I was told to steer clear of him because he had tried something at his apartment on a few players. This was not something that only a few people knew about. The entire training staff, a lot of people knew. … This was an open secret.”
After the 2010 season, Aldrich left the Blackhawks to take a job coaching a high school team in Houghton, Mich. According to a lawsuit, he used the Blackhawks as a reference, with Quenneville writing him a positive evaluation.
“Aldrich did a great job for the Coaching staff in preparing us for all of our meetings and coordinating several tasks that we forward his way,” he wrote. “Brad has several people relying on him at the same moment and has a way of deflecting and accommodating everyone at once … Congrats on winning the Stanley Cup!”
Three years later, Alrich pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct with a teenager. A second lawsuit was filed against the Blackhawks by the student whom he was convicted of assaulting.
Aldrich also had a job with the Miami of Ohio University hockey team for four months in 2012. His period working there is being investigated.
Blunk left the Blackhawks organization this summer along with mental skills coach James Gary, who allegedly told a player who was sexually assaulted that it was his fault. McDonough, who was president and CEO of the organization, was fired in early 2020.
Should any of McDonough, Blunk, Bowman or MacIsaac want to work in the league again, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said they would first have to be approved by him.
Cheveldayoff, currently the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, and Quenneville, the coach of the Florida Panthers, will meet with Bettman to “discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the report,” he said Tuesday.
“I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with them.”
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