(Updated below to add response from Brian Higgins’ counsel.)
In the latest report from TSN’s Rick Westhead, former Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent details the timeline of events and his meeting with the front office in 2010 regarding the allegations against former video coach Brad Aldrich.
Content warning: this story contains details of sexual assault.
According to Westhead’s report, in his interview with Jenner and Block, the law firm hired to conduct the investigation into the allegations against the Blackhawks and Aldrich, Vincent detailed what he was told by the two unnamed players regarding their interactions with Aldrich, who told him about the allegations initially, and who “ran the meeting” with the Blackhawks front office:
During an Aug. 7 interview via Zoom with three lawyers from Jenner & Block, Vincent said he first learned of the allegations from Chicago defenseman Nick Boynton in May 2010 when the team was in San Jose during the Stanley Cup Western Conference final.
In the interview, Vincent said that after talking with Boynton, he then spoke with the two alleged victims for about 10 minutes.
“They explain to me what happened,” Vincent told the Jenner & Block lawyers. “I didn’t need all the details. I knew that it was wrong. They told me that [Aldrich] had tried to touch their penis, wanted to touch their penis. That’s all I needed to know. I said, ‘It’s not my spot. I’m not a police officer any more. I will go to the proper people.'”
Vincent said he shared the allegations with Blackhawks sports psychologist James Gary and Brian Higgins, then the team’s director of security.
UPDATE: The original TSN report has been updated to include a denial from Brian Higgins, via counsel, and in fairness we wanted to update to reflect:
Eric Lifvendahl, Higgins’ attorney, told TSN in an interview on Thursday that while his client worked at the United Center during the 2009-10 season, he did not start working officially for the Blackhawks until October 2010. Lifvendahl said Vincent’s statement that he told Higgins about the alleged abuse is false.
Vincent, who was the Blackhawks’ skills coach from 2008-2011, says that he then took the allegations from the two players to members of the team’s front office, being called in to meet with then-Team President John McDonough, Stan Bowman, James Gary, and Al MacIsaac. In the meeting, it was apparently MacIsaac who did most of the talking.
More from Westhead’s report:
“I come in and Al MacIsaac says to me, ‘What do you know?’” Vincent said. “I said, ‘The same thing I told [Gary and Higgins].’ And with that, Al MacIsaac did most of the speaking. He said, ‘We’ve got it handled. You are assuming something happened and we’re going to look into it. You don’t need to look into it anymore.’” Vincent said he advised the executives to report the alleged abuse to police. “I did say to them I think you need to call the Chicago PD (Police Department) and have them quietly investigate,” Vincent told the Jenner & Block investigators. “That’s when MacIsaac said, ‘You don’t need to worry about this. We’ll take care of it… You can leave now.’ So I walk outside. Two of the coaches are still waiting for me, John Torchetti and Mike Haviland. I said, ‘You won’t believe what just happened.’ I explained it. And we went off to dinner.”
From here, what we know is that the Blackhawks did not bring the allegations to the Chicago Police, Aldrich served in his role with the team through the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, was with the team for the Stanley Cup celebration in 2010, and then quietly and unceremoniously vanished from the team.
We also learned from Vincent in his interview with Jenner and Block, that the players saw him (Vincent) as not only a coach, but a trusted member of the staff that they could turn to, a “grandfather” figure to them. He was tight with the players and with the rest of the coaching staff, but he goes on toe explain that Aldrich was not in that “inner-circle” on the team and that his interactions with some staff members was troubling, to say the least.
From Westhead’s report:
Vincent said that Aldrich brought interns to the players’ locker room after games to drink alcohol.
“Some of [the interns] looked younger, looked like minors and he was having drinks with them,” Vincent told the investigators.
Vincent said a Blackhawks coach whom Vincent did not identify spoke to Aldrich and told him that what he was doing was not appropriate.
Aldrich routinely had a 14-year-old boy stay weekends at his apartment, Vincent said, adding that he understood the boy’s family was close to Aldrich. “Family friend, that’s what I was told,” Vincent told Schar, adding that the boy has developed into “a pretty successful hockey player… moved along and became an NHL player.”
Vincent declined to tell Schar the name of that player.
What we are learning here from the interview between Vincent and the investigators is that even prior to the alleged incidents in May of 2010, people within the organization and coaching staff already had Aldrich on their radar for inappropriate behavior with team interns and minors. It’s a troubling idea to think that all this potential build-up of inappropriate behavior could have been stopped by people within the Blackhawks organization earlier than May of 2010 and could have helped stop the chain of events following Aldrich after his time with the team.
We will continue to cover the developments in this investigation as they happen.