If you have been following the situation with the Chicago Blackhawks lawsuits and allegations against them stemming from incidents in 2010 and 2013 involving former video coach Brad Aldrich, the name Rick Westhead has definitely come across your eyes/ears. Westhead has been one of the more prominent journalists covering the story since it became public a few months ago. Even though Westhead works for TSN, a non-local media outlet to the Blackhawks, he has been at the fore-front of the investigative journalism being done on the topic.
On Wednesday, Westhead joined Steve “Dangle” Glynn, Adam Wylde, and Jesse Blake on the Steve Dangle Podcast, a prominent Toronto Maple Leafs/NHL podcast, to discuss everything surrounding the Blackhawks lawsuits and allegations. You can find the full interview on YouTube here…
(Content Warning: This podcast episode and article contains content regarding sexual abuse and assault)
There are a few bits of information that stood out that we may not have already known or has not already been reported by Westhead or the myriad of other journalists covering the story at a deeper level. I won’t go through all of them, out of respect to the guys on the podcast (shoutout to them for having Westhead on and the work they have done to continue shining a light on the story), and to just give some “highlights,” for lack of a better word.
• Westhead points out that Brad Aldrich had a relative who was the principal at the Michigan High School in Houghton where the incident in 2013 between him and the student occurred. That was news to me.
• We learn from Westhead’s conversations with Susan Loggans, the lawyer for the former Blackhawks player in the 2010 lawsuit, known as “John Doe 1,” that the incidents in 2010 involved two unnamed former players, but the other player involved wants nothing to do with the current lawsuits and investigation. Westhead reveals that the second unnamed player from the 2010 incidents is actually upset at the situation and that the information is coming to light now.
• A strong point that Westhead makes is that the lawsuits against the team are civil lawsuits, not criminal charges. He also addresses the idea that have that the players are only out for money, or a “cash grab.” Westhead says that in talking with counselors who work with sexual abuse victims, they tell him it is not out of the ordinary for victims to take a long time to come to terms with what happened to them before coming forward.
I believe this is a very important thing for people to understand, especially in the realm of sports and hockey culture, coming forward to say that you were taken advantage of or abused sexually is not something that is easily divulged or easily received. Hockey, specifically the NHL, is portrayed as this realm where Men are Men and they play through injuries and they beat each other’s faces in and they do it all for their teammates and all for the chance to lift the Stanley Cup. Imagine being so deeply inundated in that world, and then trying to come forward to say another man sexual assaulted and harassed you. It’s no wonder it has taken this long for this story to come to light.
• We learn from Westhead, regarding Aldrich’s pre-sentencing arguments from his 2013 sexual assault conviction (for which he served nine months in prison and 60 months probation), that Aldrich’s legal team argued for the court to be lenient on Aldrich for two reasons: one) because he was a volunteer coach at the Michigan high school, he didn’t have “ultimate authority” over the player he sexually assaulted and two) because the sexual act which that he did with the student, “didn’t take very long.”
To which Glynn responds in the recording, “That’s in a document? That was a legal argument?” I’m just as befuddled by that information as he was. Westhead went on to say he didn’t believe those reasons were actually taken into consideration.
• Regarding the possibility that the lawsuits go to open trial, Westhead pondered the possibility that if the lawsuits survive the motions to dismiss that were issued by the team, that the Blackhawks would much rather reach a financial settlement with John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, rather than open their documents and put their executives on the record.
I highly, highly recommend listening to the entire podcast with the group and Westhead.
We here at Bleacher Nation have done the best we can to cover the story through the work being done by Westhead, WBEZ, The Atheltic, etc. I am not a news-breaker, I react to what I see and hear and try to dissect and decipher my thoughts and feelings on it. We are going to continue to cover the allegations, investigations, and news on the lawsuits against the Blackhawks and Brad Aldrich until they see their finale in the legal process, and likely the aftermath of all of this as well, since it is not going to just go away.
The open and honest conversation being had surrounding the legal process, the difference in the responsibility and involvement of players and management, and the reception of the story in the hockey world (among other topics) is worth the 78 minutes of your time.