By: Peter Babb
Last May, the Chicago Blackhawks had a lawsuit filed against them, alleging that the organization deliberately hid claims of sexual assault by former video coach Brad Aldrich during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup championship run. The lawsuit was filed by a former Blackhawks player, who revealed himself on Oct. 27 as Kyle Beach. The Blackhawks hired Jenner and Block, a law firm company, to launch an independent investigation into the matter. The report showed that the Blackhawks prioritized success over the safety of their players.
The lawsuit claimed that Aldrich made unwanted sexual acts and threats towards Beach. Aldrich threatened that if Beach did not participate, he would “ruin your career.” The lawsuit also alleges that Aldrich assaulted another Blackhawks player and an intern during his time with the Blackhawks. The player, known as John Doe 1 at the time (Kyle Beach), sought $150,000 in damages.
Sports Network (TSN) reporter Rick Westhead revealed that the incident occurred around May 8 or 9 in 2010. During the playoffs for the Blackhawks. The report also stated that Beach first went to the team’s mental health coach, Jim Gary. Allegedly, Gary told Beach “that the sexual assault was his fault.”
The Room Where It Happened
Beach told then skating coach Paul Vincent about his interaction with Aldrich, prompting a meeting with a majority of the Blackhawks front office. Vincent, a former police officer in Massachusetts, met with former Blackhawks president of hockey operations John McDonough, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, General Manager Stan Bowman and Gary before the Western Conference final in San Jose, Calif., to discuss what he was told by Beach.
According to the investigative report, the front-office executives, including former Blackhawks head coach John Quenneville, were made aware of the claim against Aldrich. According to Bowman, in the investigation he stated –and this is not a quote directly from Quenneville. That Quenneville did not want the team to find out and believed that winning a Stanley Cup was more important than sexual assault.
Bowman stated that McDonough told him that he would “handle things” in regards to an investigation by the Blackhawks in 2010. According to the report, the Blackhawks approached Aldrich on June 16, 2010, regarding the incident. They gave him a choice between either resigning from his position or being a part of the Blackhawks investigation. Aldrich agreed to resign from his position and no full investigation was conducted by the Blackhawks.
The Lack of Culture
The investigation confirmed that Aldrichs’ behavior and actions were an “open secret” to the players, staff and front office. With Beach stating that several Blackhawk players would follow him around the ice, degrading him with homophobic slurs and taunts. Quenneville, who is currently the head coach of the Florida Panthers, stated that he does not recall the meeting or any of the statements he made in 2010 in regard to the sexual assault.
Bowman is his statement on Oct. 26, said, “I relied on the direction of my superior that [John McDonough] would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so.”
The Blackhawks did not file the incident to their HR department until three weeks after the Stanley Cup win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Aldrich resigned from his position after the 2010 season but was able to attend the cup banner ceremony the next season.
The Jenner and Block 107 page report involved over 139 witnesses. Including 21 current or former Blackhawk players and Rockford Icehog players (Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate) and 14 members of the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Championship squad. Beach and Aldrich were interviewed as well.
Aldrich stated in the investigation that the encounter was consensual. Aldrich served a nine-month prison sentence for sexual misconduct that involved a high school student in Michigan in 2013.
Jenner and Block stated that the Blackhawks, “own sexual harassment policy—which required investigation of all reports of sexual harassment to be conducted ‘promptly and thoroughly’—was violated.” Jenner and Block did not reveal any recommendations in terms of employment for the Blackhawks. In their report, Jenner and Block confirmed that the owners of the Blackhawks did not have any knowledge of the incident until the lawsuit was filed in May.
Minutes after the report was released to the public, Bowman “stepped down” from his position as general manager. Bowman’s full statement received criticism online for his lack of empathy towards the victims.
CEO Danny Wirtz in his press conference about the incident said, “We talk a lot about hockey culture. I believe one of the beautiful parts of our game is the focus on team success over individual achievements and accolades,” Wirtz said. “But that cannot come at the expense of individual safety and well-being.” Sportnet has the full press conference on its website.
The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million for failing to comply with NHL’s and the organization’s guidelines for sexual harassment. The NHLPA also came forward and stated their regret for failing to help Beach “in his time of need.” The NHL is also scheduled to talk to Quenneville about his involvement in the scandal.
Kyle Beach came forward as one of the victims in an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead. Saying that he felt “relief and vindication” and that for the first time “it wasn’t my word against everybody else’s.” The 26-minute interview was filled with emotion as Beach stepped forward about what happened for the first time in a decade.
“I’ve been a survivor, I am a survivor,” said Beach. “And I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one, male or female.”
Beach is currently playing professional hockey in Germany and has been out of the NHL since 2014. Beach spoke about how it affected him for more than a decade, “it’s destroyed me from the inside out.”
Beach did discuss Bowman’s statement regarding Quenneville, “And I can’t believe that. As a human being, I cannot believe that, and I cannot accept that.”
Beach did express that he was glad that the Blackhawks fully cooperated with the investigation and taking action to make sure that an incident like this never happens again. “I think that the step the Blackhawks took yesterday is a great step in the right direction. They accepted accountability and they took actions necessary, albeit too late. And the denials until yesterday, I commend them for what they did.”
“And I want everybody to know in the sports world and in the world that you’re not alone. That if these things happen to you, you need to speak up.”
Update: October 28, 9:00 P.M.
John Quenneville has resigned as the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Quenneville released the following statement:
“With deep regret and contrition, I announce my resignation as head coach of the Florida Panthers. I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered. My former team the Blackhawks failed Kyle and I own my share of that. I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take the time to educate myself on ensuring jockey spaces are safe for everyone.”
Update: November 4, 1:00 P.M.
The Chicago Blackhawks owner Danny Wirtz reached out to the NHL and the NHL Hall of Fame and asked if they could remove Aldrich’s name from the Stanley Cup. Today, the NHL obliged by obscuring his name on the championship trophy. According to the NHL, the redaction of Aldrich’s name occurred on Sunday after they hired a silversmith to remove his name. The procedure could not remove his name from the Stanley Cup without a band of the historic trophy from coming off. Instead they put large Xs over the disgraced coach’s name.