by Georgia McCann
WARNING – This piece includes references to sexual abuse, which may be upsetting to some readers.
Following allegations by a former Chicago Blackhawks player that he was sexually abused by a coach, the Blackhawks were investigated by law firm Jenner & Block.
On Tuesday, following interviews with 139 witnesses, Jenner & Block’s report was released, with heads starting to roll already. Let’s take a look at what has happened in Chicago both this off-season and this week.
WHAT WE KNOW
For the purpose of transparency, allow me to lay out the allegations which recently came to light.
A former member of the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup winning team, now revealed to be Kyle Beach, alleged video coach Brad Aldrich sexually abused him. At the time he was 20 years old. Beach reported the abuse to management, met for a meeting to discuss the matter further.
Despite his predatory behaviour, Aldrich was not immediately fired on the spot. He was allowed to stay with the team during their Stanley Cup run and celebrate the win, joining the parade.
Only afterwards, was Aldrich asked to either resign or be fired. He chose the former and was paid his full salary, including a playoff bonus.
As you have probably gathered, nobody in the Chicago Blackhawks organisation notified the police. In 2013 however, Aldrich would however be arrested in Michigan.
This time the charges were third and fourth degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. He pleaded guilty to the latter and the following year he was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years probation.
WHAT WAS REVEALED THIS WEEK
It was revealed the aforementioned meeting was attended by Stan Bowman (general manager), Al MacIsaac (vice president of hockey operations), Jay Blunk (former vice president) John McDonough (former team president) Joel Quenneville (former head coach and Kevin Cheveldayoff (former assistant general manager).
Confirmed by Bowman himself, investigators learned that Quenneville was concerned the abuse would ‘upset team chemistry’ and ‘could not deal with the issue now’ – i.e. during a Stanley Cup run.
Additionally, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Director of Human Resources at the time claims that McDonough informed her that ‘the group would not alert Human Resources or do anything about the incident during the playoffs so as not to disturb team chemistry’. McDonough has not outright denied this, but claims he doesn’t recall the conversation.
The victim was clearly traumatised and it was picked up on by staff. An assistant coach for the Hawks’ AHL affiliate stated in a performance evaluation of Beach that ‘what happened last spring with Brad Aldrich weighed on him big time’.
Despite this, Beach seems to have never received any support from Chicago. Per Rick Westhead, mind skills coach ‘Doc’ Jim Gary is being investigated by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation as he reportedly told John Doe 1 that the abuse was his own fault. Truly sickening if found to be true.
WHAT ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN
Bowman and MacIsaac, who were the only two members of the 2010 meeting left in Chicago, have both left their roles. Bowman has also stepped down as general manager of the US Olympic hockey team.
The NHL has fined the Blackhawks $2 million, with at least half set to fund local organisations which help support, counsel and train survivors of abuse.
NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, has confirmed both Quenneville, the current head coach of the Florida Panthers and Cheveldayoff, the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, will be interviewed for their role in the scandal in the coming days. Both publicly denied any knowledge of the abuse, but Jenner & Block’s report show otherwise.
It is hard to imagine that Florida or Winnipeg would be willing to keep Quenneville and Cheveldayoff around, but stranger things have happened unfortunately.
Stranger still is that under-fire Quenneville was behind the bench for Panthers’ 4-1 win over Boston Bruins amid opposition fans chanting for his dismissal. If a player was under the same circumstances, they would be suspended pending the investigation.
If you want to go deeper into what has already happened, the report is public. I would also strongly recommend checking the reporting by Rick Westhead, who has been passionate about getting this heard.
His commentary is all available on his Twitter and would be worth keeping an eye on over the next few days and weeks, as you can expect the fallout from the report to continue.