Content warning: This story contains details about alleged sexual assault.
The Blackhawks announced on Oct. 26 the results of an independent investigation following allegations of sexual assault by a former player and the subsequent coverup by team officials.
“It is clear the organization and its executives at that time did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents,” a letter to the community from the Blackhawks read. “We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and the failure to promptly respond. As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to the individuals who suffered from these experiences. We must — and will — do better.”
On a Zoom call with reporters, team owner Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who ran the investigation with his law firm Jenner & Block LLP, made statements that provided information and the results of the findings from the investigation.
The report, a detailed 107-page document that was delivered to the Wirtz’s on Monday, describes the incidents that occurred in 2010 and the lack of an investigation by the Blackhawks organization.
What are the allegations?
On May 7, 2021, an unnamed former Blackhawks player (referred to as John Doe 1) filed a lawsuit in an Illinois court against the organization. The filing alleges the Blackhawks ignored the player and a teammate’s disclosure of then video coach Brad Aldrich’s sexual assault in 2010.
“This entire man’s life has been destroyed,” Susan Loggans, the former player’s attorney, told Chicago public radio station WBEZ in June. “These professional athletes have to function at the top of their game at all times in order to be competitive, and these things are really debilitating.”
TSN’s Rick Westhead reported, the filing alleges Aldrich was watching pornography and performed a sexual act in front of him without his consent in May of 2010. Aldrich then sent inappropriate text messages and threatened the player “physically, financially and emotionally” if he did not participate. An amended complaint from July 2021 goes into further detail regarding the incident and noted he tried to leave but Aldrich blocked his way and threatened the player with a souvenir baseball bat.
According to TSN, in May 2010, two players also told then-skills coach Paul Vincent of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich who then asked Jim Gary, the team’s mental skills coach, to follow up. Per the lawsuit, John Doe 1 told Gary what occurred.
“On or about May 2010, plaintiff, John Doe, began seeing Gary for counseling services after he was sexually assaulted by a team employee,” the statement of claim says, per Westhead. “Prior to the sexual assault on John Doe, defendant was made aware that the same team employee had sexually assaulted a teammate of John Doe.”
Gary allegedly convinced the former player “that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what had happened, [and had] made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur.”
Per TSN, Vincent, a former police officer in Massachusetts, met with then-Blackhawks president John McDonough, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, GM Stan Bowman and Gary before the Western Conference final in San Jose, Calif., to discuss what he was told. According to Vincent, he asked them to contact Chicago law enforcement but they declined.
Who is Brad Aldrich?
Aldrich was hired in July 2008 and served as the video coach with the Blackhawks during the team’s Stanley Cup season in 2010.
He left the organization that summer and went on to work and volunteer with USA Hockey, the University of Notre Dame, Miami University (OH) and Houghton High School. Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Houghton, Mich. of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student. He was sentenced in 2014 to nine months in jail and five years of probation.
The former student, who played on the high school hockey team, is listed as John Doe 2 and is also suing the Blackhawks citing they provided positive references for Aldrich.
Per The Associated Press, Miami University (OH) also opened an investigation in June. Aldrich was the director of hockey operations at the school but resigned in 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult.” In September, the school released its findings and concluded that he sexually assaulted two men in the fall of 2012.
What did the Blackhawks investigation reveal?
Over the course of a four-month-long investigation, 139 witnesses were interviewed including 21 current and former Blackhawks players and players from the AHL affiliate in Rockford, 14 members of the 2009-10 Blackhawks roster and five of the nine “Black Aces” or practice players called up during the 2010 playoffs, John Doe 1 and Brad Aldrich.
Who is John Doe?
While his identity is anonymous, the investigation notes that John Doe 1 (named as John Doe further) was a 20-year-old prospect who was called up during the playoffs to serve as a “Black Ace.” A “Black Ace” is a player brought up during the postseason to practice with the team and be ready to play in the case of an injury, suspension, or any other reason that rostered player cannot play.
When did the assault occur?
Per interviews with both John Doe and Aldrich, both concur that a sexual encounter did occur on either May 8 or 9, 2010. The exact date is unknown but based on timelines regarding the team’s travel plans around the playoffs, this is the date the investigation pinpointed. Aldrich claims the encounter was consensual while John Doe says it was “entirely non-consensual.”
What occurred on the night of the assault?
At the time, the Blackhawks were playing the Canucks during the second round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Aldrich invited John Doe over telling him “he had the power to get John Doe onto the Blackhawks’ roster” before turning on pornography. John Doe stated “that Aldrich threatened John Doe by telling John Doe he needed to act like he enjoyed the sexual encounter or John Doe would never play in the NHL ‘or walk’ again” and then forcibly performed sexual acts before threatening him again. Again, it should be noted that Aldrich said the encounter was consensual.
When were the Blackhawks informed and what steps did they take?
May 12-19, 2010
While in San Jose during the Western Conference finals, John Doe tells Paul Vincent, the Blackhawks skating coach, what occurred. Vincent, however, recalls hearing rumors from Nick Boynton and then approached John Doe and another player, revealed to be Black Ace 1 mentioned below.
May 23, 2010
Al MacIsaac, senior director of hockey administration, is informed by an employee that “there may have been a sexual encounter involving Aldrich and John Doe.” MacIsaac tells Gary to speak with John Doe who provided limited details which included that Aldrich was pressuring the young prospect to have sex with him or his career would be harmed.
Sometime between May 12-19, John Doe told a fellow “Black Ace” (Black Ace 1) that “Aldrich tried to touch him.” When contacted for the investigation, he did not recall the conversation but did remember John Doe speaking with Gary about it.
Later in the day, the Blackhawks eliminated the Sharks from the playoffs in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. One hour after, a meeting took place with the following senior managers:
- President John McDonough
- Senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac
- General Manager Stan Bowman
- Executive Vice President Jay Blunk
- Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff
- Head coach Joel Quenneville
- Mental skills coach and team counselor Jim Gary
Per the report, all men recall being told there was an incident. Gary remembers stating Aldrich was threatening John Doe’s career but none recalled being told the exact nature of what occurred. Others in the meeting recall Gary stating Aldrich tried to “get under the sheets” with John Doe.
From the report, it seemed there was more concern for the on-ice product than what occurred off the ice:
Bowman recalled that during the meeting, McDonough and Quenneville made comments about the challenge of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs. Several years later, MacIsaac, in discussing the situation between Aldrich and John Doe with another Blackhawks employee, stated that McDonough did not want any negative publicity during the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bowman recalled that McDonough said he would handle things; however, as noted there was no evidence anything was actually done until after the playoffs. At 9:06 p.m., Gary and Bowman spoke by phone and Bowman informed him that they “will pursue this” and bring it to “an ending.”
It should be noted that the report did not find Vincent’s statements above regarding contacting management as accurate.
June 9, 2010
The Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.
June 10, 2010
Aldrich made sexual advances towards and physically touches a 22-year-old intern as the team celebrated the championship.
June 14, 2010
McDonough informs human resources regarding the allegations of Aldrich and the May 23 meeting. Per the report, the director of human resources noted: “McDonough said it was decided that the group would not alert Human Resources or do anything about the incident during the playoffs so as not to disturb team chemistry.”
June 16, 2010
When meeting with the director of human resources, and upon hearing the allegations, Aldrich did not confirm nor deny what occurred. He is given an option to either undergo an investigation or resign. He chooses to resign. He is given a severance, playoff bonus, have his name engraved on the Cup, have a day with the Stanley Cup, was given a championship ring and was at the banner-raising ceremony.
The director of human resources is contacted by the Houghton Police Department during their investigation into Aldrich on suspicion of criminal sexual assault. She recalled informing the police that he resigned but could not provide more information without a subpoena.
After the court filings in May 2021, the Blackhawks announced internally in late June the hiring of a former federal prosecutor, Reid Schar, to lead an “independent investigation” into the allegations. During the subsequent investigation, it is also revealed that Aldrich sent inappropriate text messages to Black Ace 1.
What are the results of the investigation?
Per the investigation, and as noted above, the organization waited three weeks between learning of the incident and taking any action. That action was Aldrich resigning.
As stated in the investigation:
As a result, the Blackhawks’ own sexual harassment policy—which required investigation of all reports of sexual harassment to be conducted “promptly and thoroughly”—was violated. The failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter and the decision to take no action from May 23 to June 14 had consequences. During that period, Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the team.
Aldrich engaged in an unwanted sexual advance on a Blackhawks intern—physically grabbing the intern in a sexual manner. And Aldrich continued to participate in team activities and celebrations, in the presence of John Doe. Even after the allegations were finally reported to the Director of Human Resources, still no investigation occurred, and Aldrich was permitted to resign his position and to continue participating in Stanley Cup victory events.
The investigation did not reveal any recommendations provided for future employment by the Blackhawks. Records from USA Hockey, Miami University and Houghton found no evidence of references and Aldrich was hired at the high school as a volunteer through the recommendation of a family member.
On Oct. 26, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz announced that Stan Bowman “stepped aside” as the team’s GM. Current vice president of hockey strategy and analytics Kyle Davidson will take over as the interim GM as the team searches for new hockey operations leadership.
“We and he ultimately accept that in his first year as general manager, he made a mistake alongside our other senior executives at the time and did not take adequate action in 2010,” Wirtz said before adding that none of the other executives involved in the response will be with the organization moving forward. Al MacIsaac and Bowman were the only ones still with the team as of Oct. 26.
Joel Quenneville is currently the Panthers head coach and Kevin Cheveldayoff is the Jets general manager. Both had said publicly they did not know of the allegations, which has now proven false.
In light of the investigation, the NHL announced the Blackhawks have been fined $2 million “for the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response in the handling of matters related to former video coach Brad Aldrich’s employment with the Club and ultimate departure in 2010. Half of that will go towards organizations in and around Chicago that provide counseling and training for, and support and assistance to, survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse.
In addition, Bettman announced that while he cannot discipline anyone no longer with the NHL, he will be meeting with Quenneville and Cheveldayoff in the near future to discuss their roles in the events that occurred.
Danny Wirtz, during his remarks, said: “John Doe deserves better from the Blackhawks and while we believe we have a strong legal defense, I’ve instructed our lawyers to see if we can reach a fair resolution consistent with the totality of the circumstances.”
Tuesday night, USA Hockey also announced that Bowman has stepped aside as the team’s general manager for the 2022 Olympics.
For the full report, released publicly by the Blackhawks, click here.