NATIONAL NEWS

‘Animalism’: Blackhawks scandal raises culture questions

Oct 27, 2021, 8:49 PM
CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 16: Blackhawk's ticket information and team logo are seen on the back of a truck...
CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 16: Blackhawk's ticket information and team logo are seen on the back of a truck through a fence outside of the United Center, the home of the Chicago Blackhawks, February 16, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) — For three weeks in 2010, they did nothing. That’s how long it took for the leadership of the Chicago Blackhawks to act on allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player.

Three weeks. Three weeks that — more than a decade later — rocked a once-proud franchise and raised more questions about the culture of sports.

In the span of 107 pages, featuring interviews with 139 witnesses, more than 100 gigabytes of electronic records and 49 boxes of hard-copy records, a report by an outside law firm detailed how senior leaders of the Blackhawks seemingly ignored the sexual assault accusations raised with the franchise days before the team won its first Stanley Cup title since 1961.

The ramifications of the independent review, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits, stretched into several corners of the NHL, which fined the Blackhawks $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”

Florida coach Joel Quenneville is slated to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is planning to talk to the commissioner on Monday. Both were with the Blackhawks when the accusations by Kyle Beach were first reported to team leadership.

According to the report, Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL players’ association, was contacted twice about allegations connected to the assistant coach, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he couldn’t recall either conversation, but did not deny that they had occurred.

Messages were left by the AP seeking comment from the NHLPA.

Beach, a 2008 first-round draft pick playing professionally in Germany, told TSN on Wednesday he felt “alone and dark” in the days following the alleged assault. He said he is only now beginning the healing process.

Beach, 31, had been referred to as John Doe in his lawsuit against the team and the Blackhawks’ report. The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.

In a statement attributed to the team, the Blackhawks commended Beach for his courage in coming forward, and reiterated the organization’s “deepest apologies” for what he has gone through and its failure to promptly respond in 2010.

Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, the son of team chairman Rocky Wirtz, met with current players Wednesday, a day after the graphic report was released, leading to the departures of President of Hockey Operations Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, another top executive.

“I think the overriding message was that we, as in the organization, we’re here for you,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “The family is behind us. The organization’s behind us, and we’re going to do everything we can to move forward here.”

Rocky Wirtz said Tuesday that he and Danny were first made aware of the accusations ahead of a May filing of a lawsuit by Beach alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The team also is facing a second lawsuit by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

The Blackhawks said their lawyers contacted Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents John Doe and the former student in the second lawsuit, on Tuesday about possible settlements. A call was set up for early next week.

According to the report, the encounter between Beach, then a 20-year-old minor leaguer called up in case the Blackhawks needed help in the playoffs, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010.

Beach told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations that he also detailed in his lawsuit.

Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual. Asked Wednesday about the law firm’s report, Aldrich responded: “I have nothing to say.”

About two weeks later, on May 23, 2010, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, team president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.

Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations before McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 — a delay that violated the team’s sexual harassment policy, according to Schar.

During those three weeks, Aldrich continued to work for and travel with the team. Schar said Aldrich also “made an unwanted sexual advance” toward a 22-year-old Blackhawks intern.

Beach told TSN seeing Aldrich around the team made him feel sick.

“I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by (Jim Gary) and nothing happened,” Beach said. “It was like his life was the same as the day before. Same every day.

“And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing.”

McDonough, Blunk and Gary are no longer employed in the NHL. Now Bowman and MacIsaac are out as well.

But the report makes clear that 11 years ago, winning the Cup took priority over taking immediate action on the Aldrich allegations: Bowman recalled that during the May 23 meeting, McDonough and Quenneville talked about the challenge of reaching the Stanley Cup Final and “a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.”

Bowman’s description of what happened was reminiscent of scandals at Baylor, where assault claims against football players were mishandled by school officials, or at USA Gymnastics, still reeling from its mishandling of convicted serial sex abuser and team doctor Larry Nassar.

Loggans said she hopes what happened with Chicago leads to changes across sports.

“There has to be a change from a mentality of complete animalism, like let’s just completely ramp up the masculinity factor of these players and whatever it takes to win a game, we’ll do that,” she said. “There has to be some context, no different than being concerned about concussions in football games.

“It’s not winning at all costs. These are human beings. They’re not gladiators whose lives are going to be sacrificed in the game.”

___

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

...
Associated Press

CDC drops traveler health notices for individual countries

The CDC is doing away with notices about the COVID-19 risk of visiting specific countries.
22 hours ago
WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 23: Former President Donald Trump arrives at a Save America Rally at the...
Associated Press

Trump files $475 million defamation lawsuit against CNN

Former President Donald Trump has gone to court against CNN, a familiar target when he was president.
22 hours ago
Search crews in Florida....
Mike Anderson

Rescue teams continue to find residents effected by Hurricane Ian

Search teams are helping oversee FEMA's efforts to search for those survivors, which is no easy task.
22 hours ago
FILE photo...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Idaho ordered to pay $2.5M to transgender inmate for legal fees

A federal judge has ordered Idaho and its prison medical care provider to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees to a transgender inmate who sued after she was denied gender confirmation surgery.
22 hours ago
surveillance image of possible shooter...
Associated Press

Killings of 5 men in California are related, police say

Rewards totaling $85,000 have been offered for information leading to an arrest in five fatal shootings since July in Stockton, California, that investigators believe are related.
22 hours ago
OREM, UT - FEBRUARY 21: A bump stock is installed on an AK-47 at Good Guys Gun and Range on Februar...
Associated Press

Supreme Court rejects bump stock ban cases, one from Utahn

The Supreme Court says it won't take up two cases that involved challenges to a ban enacted during the Trump administration on bump stocks. Those are the gun attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
‘Animalism’: Blackhawks scandal raises culture questions