CHICAGO (AP) – For three weeks in 2010, they did nothing. This is how long it took for the management of the Chicago Blackhawks to follow up on allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player.
Three weeks. Three weeks that – over a decade later – rocked a once proud franchise and raised more questions about the culture of the sport.
In the span of 107 pages, featuring interviews with 139 witnesses, over 100 gigabytes of electronic documents and 49 boxes of paper documents, a report from an outside law firm detailed how senior Blackhawks leaders apparently ignored the sexual assault charges raised. with the franchise days before the team won their first Stanley Cup title since 1961.
The ramifications of the independent review, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits, have spread to several corners of the NHL, which fined the Blackhawks $ 2 million for “the inadequate internal procedures of the organization and insufficient and premature response â.
Florida coach Joel Quenneville is scheduled to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff plans to meet with the commissioner on Monday. The two were with the Blackhawks when the Kyle Beach charges were first reported to team management.
According to the report, Donald Fehr, the head of the NHL Players Association, has been contacted twice over allegations related to the assistant coach, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he doesn’t remember either of the conversations, but didn’t deny that they happened.
âKyle Beach had a horrible experience and showed real courage in telling his story,â Fehr said in a statement Wednesday night. âThere is no doubt that the system has failed to support him in his difficult times, and we are part of that system.
âIn his media interview, Mr. Beach said that several months after the incident, he told someone from NHLPA the details of what happened to him. It refers to one of the doctors in the NHL / NHLPA Player Assistance Program. Although this program is confidential between players and medics, the seriousness of this incident should have prompted further action on our part. The fact that this was not the case was a serious failure. I am very sorry and I am committed to making changes so that this does not happen again. “
Beach, a 2008 first-round pick playing professionally in Germany, told TSN on Wednesday he felt “lonely and gloomy” in the days following the alleged assault. He said he was only now beginning the healing process.
Beach, 31, had been called John Doe in his lawsuit against the team and the Blackhawks report. The AP generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly.
In a statement attributed to the team, the Blackhawks praised Beach for his courage in coming forward and reiterated the organization’s âdeepest apologiesâ for what he went through and his inability to respond quickly in 2010.
Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, the son of team president Rocky Wirtz, met with the current players on Wednesday, a day after the graphic report was released, leading to the departure of hockey operations president Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, a other senior executive.
“I think the dominant message was that we, as in the organization, we are here for you,” said coach Jeremy Colliton. âThe family is behind us. The organization is behind us, and we will do everything to move forward here.
Rocky Wirtz said on Tuesday that he and Danny were made aware of the charges before Beach filed a lawsuit in May alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The squad also faces a second lawsuit from a former student. that Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The Blackhawks said their lawyers reached out to Susan Loggans, a lawyer who represents John Doe and the former student in the second trial, on Tuesday about possible settlements. An appeal has been put in place for early next week.
The meeting between Beach, then a 20-year-old minor league called in case the Blackhawks needed playoff help, and Aldrich, then 27, happened on May 8 or 9, according to the report. 2010.
Beach told investigators Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcefully giving him a blowjob and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations he also detailed in his trial.
Aldrich told investigators the meeting was consensual. Asked about the law firm’s report on Wednesday, Aldrich replied: âI have nothing to say.
About two weeks later, on May 23, 2010, just after Chicago qualified for the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, team president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and general manager Deputy Cheveldayoff met with Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said the minutes of the meeting “varied widely.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations until McDonough contacted the team’s human resources director on June 14 – a delay that violated team policy on the matter. of sexual harassment, according to Schar.
During these three weeks, Aldrich continued to work and travel with the team. Schar said Aldrich also “made an unwanted sexual advance” towards a 22-year-old Blackhawks intern.
Beach told TSN that seeing Aldrich around the team made him sick.
âI reported this and was informed that it had moved up the chain of command by (Jim Gary) and nothing happened,â Beach said. “It was as if her life was the same as the day before. Same everyday.
“And then when they won, seeing him parading around the Cup, at the parade, at the team photos, at the 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 it clear that 11 years ago winning the cup took priority over taking immediate action on Aldrich’s allegations: Bowman recalled that during the May 23 meeting McDonough and Quenneville spoke about the challenge to reach the Stanley Cup final and “a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.”
Bowman’s description of what happened was reminiscent of the Baylor scandals, where assault complaints against football players were mismanaged by school officials, or at USA Gymnastics, still reeling from the mismanagement of Larry Nassar, serial sex offender and team doctor.
Loggans said she hopes what happened with Chicago will lead to changes in all sports.
“There has to be a change from a mentality of complete animalism, like let’s completely increase the masculinity factor of these players and whatever it takes to win a game, we will,” she said. . âThere has to be a certain context, no different than being concerned about concussions in football games.
âIt’s not winning at all costs. They are human beings. They are not gladiators whose lives will be sacrificed in the game.
AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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