(Content warning: Sexual assault/harassment, homophobia)
The independent investigation into accusations of sexual assault by Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 released its findings yesterday, and it’s extremely damning, as the fallout continues.
Chicago VP and GM Stan Bowman resigned, and resigned the role of GM for the Olympic Men’s Hockey Team for USA Hockey. All upper management that were involved that were still with the team are no longer a part of the organization, and the NHL levied a $2 Million fine against the team for its handling of the situation.
From a distance, it’s a horrifying mess. When you get closer, you can see that the punishments are only just beginning, and some may never be held to account for their involvement.
A lot of the blame has fallen, and rightfully so, on the shoulders of Bowman, but there’s plenty more to go around. When the incident was first reported to the team, a meeting was held to discuss it, attended by members of management and the coaching staff.
Schar said John McDonough, Al MacIsaac, Stan Bowman, Jay Blunk, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Joel Quenneville and James Gary met to discuss what happened with John Doe.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 26, 2021
This is in May 2010, in and around the time the Blackhawks and Canucks were doing battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How the team dealt with this allegation is simply disgusting, though sadly far from surprising.
"Bowman recalled that, after learning of the incident, Quenneville shook his head and said that it was hard for the team to get to where they were, and they could not deal with this issue now."— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 26, 2021
"Bowman recalled [John] McDonough saying that the Blackhawks might never make it this far in the playoffs again, and that they needed to think about when to handle the issue."— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 26, 2021
And let’s not forget what current Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said just a couple months ago:
Statement today from former Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff (now Winnipeg GM): "I 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..." pic.twitter.com/kCqfiRLVoI— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) July 22, 2021
As far as the four main executives involved, they’re going to have to get approval to be re-hired, and it makes you wonder why this is even an option? Would you want any of these guys to be involved with your team?
Big part of the NHL statement: As for the four individuals (John McDonough, Jay Blunk, Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac), should they wish to re-enter the league in some capacity in the future, they must meet with Gary Bettman in advance...— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) October 26, 2021
And then there’s the matter of Cheveldayoff and Quennville, both of whom have clearly lied about what they knew regarding this incident.
Commissioner Bettman: “With respect to Messrs. Cheveldayoff and Quenneville...I plan to arrange personal meetings in the near future with both to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report. I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with them.”— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 26, 2021
Then there’s John Doe’s teammates. We now know that the number of players who knew about the incident was far more than first thought. And during the investigation, John Doe testified that he was harassed by other members of the team during practices. And to make matters worse, in addition to this incident, there was another reported incident AFTER the allegations were brought to management by then Skills Coach Paul Vincent.
Details of Aldrich sexually touching a 22-year-old Blackhawks intern - after the team management was told about the alleged assault of two players. pic.twitter.com/2a0RngM5A8— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) October 26, 2021
After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich got a job with the University of Miami (Ohio)’s hockey program. And while they did a background check on Aldrich, they did not complete it until after they hired him, and found nothing because Aldrich had no police record. An investigation found that Aldrich assaulted two young men there, and at his next job working in his hometown for Houghton High School in Michigan, where he committed another assault, and pled guilty to a charge of 4th degree sexual assault of a minor.
It should also be noted that before working with the Blackhawks, Aldrich worked for the University of Notre Dame’s hockey program. Notre Dame apparently refused to cooperate in the investigation.
Besides various members of management and the coaching staff who still need to answer for this, the NHLPA and it’s head, Donald Fehr come off looking pretty bad through this.
NHLPA director Donald Fehr was informed in 2010 and 2011 about Aldrich's assault of John Doe 1 and also Aldrich texting a penis picture to another Hawks player, according to the investigation.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 26, 2021
But Fehr evidently did little or nothing, and now denies recollection of that. pic.twitter.com/XLfS5upbMZ
The team did nothing until after they won the Cup. Brad Aldrich received a ring, and allowed to have his day with the Cup, and then was fired.
For 3 weeks after this group was informed of allegations, no action was taken. During that period, Aldrich traveled & worked w/ the team. He celebrated with the team, in the presence of John Doe. He got his own day with the Cup. He got a ring. Then he was given option to resign. https://t.co/fxPH8wvAzn— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) October 26, 2021
Brad Aldrich resigned when faced with allegations of sexual abuse and the specter of a potential investigation into his reported misconduct. And yet he still managed to negotiate certain terms of his separation agreement, including celebrating with his own Stanley Cup Day. pic.twitter.com/ZoGz9lCHzB— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) October 26, 2021
And then we get to the NHL’s punishment.
The @NHLBlackhawks fined $2 Million for inadequate procedures and mishandling of the 2010 matter related to the conduct of former video coach Brad Aldrich. https://t.co/nmuTuyNBMd pic.twitter.com/kPxLO33gSj— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 26, 2021
At first glance, you might think this is a powerful statement by the league. You would be incorrect, for two reasons. First, this amount to a billionaire is like a $200 fine to you and I. A mere inconvenience, but nothing that is going to fundamentally alter your universe.
Second, there’s this: This is $1 Million less than the league fined the New Jersey Devils over the Ilya Kovalchuk 17 year contract fiasco (half of which was refunded by the league). This is something so much more severe and damaging to the integrity of the league and the game itself than salary cap circumvention.
So now we await the Commissioner’s meetings with Cheveldayoff and Quenneville to see what, if any consequences they will face. There’s also the matter of the assistant GM of the USA’s Olympic team, Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin, currently under investigation by SafeSport over his role in an incident with Pittsburgh’s AHL team. Wilkes-Barre coach Clark Donatelli sexually assaulted the wife of assistant coach Jarrod Skalde on a team road trip. It is alleged Guerin, who was Pittsburgh’s Assistant GM at the time, urged Skalde to keep the incident quiet. They later fired Skalde, under the guise of COVID-related cutbacks. Skalde is currently suing the team for wrongful dismissal.
Onto less important matters, the Canucks came up a goal short in a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild last night. In a game that can be viewed as a good measuring stick in terms of how the Canucks compare to the best in the West, the answer was: not quite good enough.
Still a team that seems to pay dearly for defensive miscues, the Canucks got behind and weren’t able to catch up, despite another late goal from the heart and soul of this franchise, Bo Horvat.
This is something we’re going to have to get used to this season. Close, but no cigar-kinda games where they’re not necessarily outplayed, and maybe even deserve to win, but just can’t get past the post.
Next up for the Canucks is a return engagement with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, and hopefully we don’t see the same officiating crew that worked their previous meeting.
Meanwhile, Travis Hamonic has reported to Abbotsford to begin working out with the AHL Canucks. Given what we saw last night, getting Hamonic back in the lineup down the road might be a blessing.
In other action around the NHL last night, Andrew Mangiapane continues to light up the league, scoring a pair for the second straight night as the Calgary Flames dispatched the New Jersey Devils 5-3.
A Riley Smith shorthanded goal was the winner as Vegas defeated Colorado 3-1 for just their second win of the season.
Nashville came up with a big win over the San Jose Sharks last night, by a 4-1 score. Filip Forsberg had the GWG in this one.
Nikolaj Ehlers scored at 18:40 of the third to tie it, then notched the winner 19 seconds later to give Winnipeg a 4-3 win over Anaheim last night.
After raising a banner for the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans Stanley Cup win, Brandon Tanev led the Seattle Kraken to a 5-1 stomping of the Montreal Canadiens with a two goal performance. That was the Kraken’s first home ice victory.
Tonight’s action sees the Boston Bruins trying to snap the Florida Panthers undefeated streak to start the season... Detroit is in Washington to take on the Capitals... The Toronto Maple Leafs might have found just what they need to snap out of their funk in a game with the COVID-addled Chicago Blackhawks... Vegas is back at it tonight in Dallas after a big win in Colorado last night... And the 5-0-0 Edmonton Oilers are hosting the Flyers, one day before Philly comes to Rogers Arena.