From May 23 to June 14, 2010 — 22 days — the Chicago Blackhawks were complicit in ignoring allegations of sexual abuse by one of their coaches against a 20-year-old player. Why? Because according to former team president John McDonough, “the Blackhawks might never make it this far in the playoffs again, and that they needed to think about when to handle the issue,” as Stan Bowman recalled in his testimony in the independent investigation.
So, let’s not beat around the bush here about what that says: The Chicago Blackhawks team president – and everyone else around him – decided not to act on allegations of sexual abuse for 22 days because the team was in the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks, and McDonough didn’t want to jeopardize a shot at a Stanley Cup Championship. A Stanley Cup Championship that the Blackhawks eventually won. A Stanley Cup Championship trophy that Brad Aldrich was allowed to celebrate with on the ice and parade around town, just weeks after he invited the 20-year-old male player (“John Doe 1”) into his apartment for dinner and drinks, according to the Schar report, and then allegedly proceeded to force himself on John Doe 1. When John Doe 1 tried to decline Aldrich’s advances, Aldrich allegedly used his capacity with the Blackhawks and within the hockey world and the threat of physical violence to deter John Doe 1 from leaving his apartment.
This occurred on May 8th or 9th, according to the investigation findings. On May 23, 2010, the Blackhawks’ Senior Director of Hockey Administration, Al MacIsaac, was told by a Blackhawks’ skating coach, Paul Vincent, that there may have been a sexual encounter involving Aldrich and John Doe, MacIsaac — a man involved in the Blackhawks organizing and for the last 21 years — “dispatched” Blackhawks’ mental skills coach and team counselor Jim Gary to speak to John Doe.
He dispatched a “mental skills” coach to talk to John Doe? Ok, that sounds sensible.
After Jim Gary gathered the details of these events, to which Gary testified to the independent investigators that he believed the claims to be credible, the Blackhawks held a meeting that included Gary, MacIsaac, then-President John McDonough, General Manager Stan Bowman, then-Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, and then-Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, along with then-head coach Joel Quenneville to discuss the allegations just hours after the Blackhawks topped the Sharks 4-2 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
From there, the chief decision-makers in the organization decided that winning was more important than player safety and justice for a 20-year-old member of their organization.
That fateful night in San Jose should define the careers and legacies of the characters involved in this travesty. While the accounts of that meeting vary depending on who the investigators asked, Stan Bowman “recalled that during the meeting, [that] 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.”
Tonight Joel Quenneville will lead his undefeated Florida Panthers onto the ice against the Boston Bruins. Still employed in the NHL after making the conscious decision that winning was more important than the safety of John Doe and other young and vulnerable members of the organization. Not only did Quenneville kick the can on the Aldrich claims after Game 4, he later wrote Brad Aldrich a raving performance review that allowed Aldrich to remain employable in the hockey world.
Here’s what Quenneville said about Aldrich in an unsigned performance review obtained by Schar and the independent investigators:
“Brad did a great job to accommodate the coaches preparing for meetings and their everyday needs … I believe going forward Brad can be more efficient by being in a separate working environment [and] not in the middle constantly being disturbed.” In his last performance evaluation, dated June 29, 2010 (after Aldrich had separated from the team), but unsigned by Quenneville and Aldrich, Quenneville wrote: “Aldrich did a great job for the Coaching staff in preparing us for all of our meetings and coordinating several tasks that we forward his way. Brad has several people relying on him at the same moment and has a way of deflecting and accommodating everyone at once … Congrats on winning the Stanley Cup!”
A couple of things here. Firstly, “I believe going forward Brad can be more efficient by being in a separate working environment [and] not in the middle being constantly disturbed.” You mean, he would be better off away from players and staffers on whom he allegedly preys?
The second thing here. “[Brad] has a way of deflecting and accommodating everyone at one… Congrats on winning the Stanley Cup!” Knowing the allegations, it’s just a horrible statement.
Absolutely stomach-turning stuff here by a man once adored by the Blackhawks faithful, the City of Chicago, and myself. Before anything in my life, I’m a Dad. A Dad of two young children who play sports, and nothing makes me more ill than reading stuff like this. Of course, even if I’m disgusted, this isn’t about me. At this point, this is about justice and simply doing the right thing, and that means that Joel Quenneville shouldn’t be employed in the NHL or the hockey world.
Quenneville isn’t alone, though. Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was in that room that night, who was culpable in all of this, is the current GM of the Winnipeg Jets. Cheveldayoff appears to be as guilty as Quenneville and every other person in that room on May 23, 2010, and he should be gone from the NHL. But, instead, not only did they prioritize winning and their own careers over John Doe’s safety, but they also compromised the safety of countless others by allowing Aldrich to continue to coach during the Stanley Cup run. And then by allowing him to resign from his position after it was all over, and even endorsing him to gain further employment in the industry knowing damn well what he had done and what he was capable of doing moving forward.
Because of that, Aldrich allegedly went on the sexually assault or intimidate others in the industry, including a Blackhawks intern that was 22-years-old at the time when Aldrich made sexual advances towards him on June 10, 2010, after getting drinks at a bar.
“One Front Office paid intern, a male employee who was twenty-two years old at the time, recalled when interviewed that Aldrich texted him to meet Aldrich and the Blackhawks team for celebrations in downtown Chicago on the evening of June 10. The employee recalled that he met Aldrich at the Haymarket bar on Randolph Street at 8 or 9 p.m. After about an hour, the employee recalled traveling with Aldrich and two Blackhawks players in a car to Stanley’s, a bar in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, staying for an hour, and then traveling to a third bar in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago. The employee recalled that, at around 1 a.m., he shared a taxi with Aldrich and a third person. The taxi dropped the third person off first, and then went to Aldrich’s apartment building to drop off Aldrich.
The employee recalled that when he and Aldrich arrived at Aldrich’s apartment building, Aldrich asked if the employee wanted to go upstairs to Aldrich’s apartment for a drink. The employee recalled saying “no.” The employee recalled Aldrich asking the employee a second time if the employee wanted to go upstairs to Aldrich’s apartment for a drink, which the employee again declined. Then, the employee recalled that Aldrich put his hand on the employee’s “crotch” at the same time that he asked, in a suggestive manner, if the employee wanted to go upstairs. The employee stated that Aldrich did not mention anything about a drink during this third statement, and it was clear to the employee that the request was sexual in nature. The employee recalled responding “What the f—?! No.” The employee recalled that Aldrich then threw money down for the taxi and went into his apartment building. The employee continued to his residence in the taxi. Four other entry-level Front Office employees recalled the employee telling them directly in 2010 that Aldrich propositioned this employee while the two were in a taxi. Five other Front Office employees recalled hearing about the incident from others in 2010. We uncovered no evidence that any of these nine employees reported the incident to Human Resources.
When interviewed, the employee recalled texting Aldrich when he woke up the next morning and questioning Aldrich’s actions in the taxi. The employee recalled that Aldrich apologized and said he was drunk, that “no one knows, please don’t tell,” and that “people like me kill themselves where I’m from.” The employee understood that Aldrich was coming out to him as gay. The employee recalled that he felt bad for Aldrich.541 The employee recalled that his response to Aldrich was that he would not tell anyone.”
According to his testimony, the employee did not report the incident to the Blackhawks because, according to his testimony, Aldrich’s father worked for the San Jose Sharks, and the employee feared that reporting Aldrich would negatively affect his future job prospects in the NHL and hockey.
Aldrich went on to join the coaching staff of a boys high school team in Houghton, Mich., after the Blackhawks allowed him to resign from the organization and sent him on his way with rave reviews. However, a high school player from Houghton, identified as John Doe 2 in a second lawsuit filed against the Blackhawks, said that Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering for players in March 2013.
Who knows if this is truly where the abuse and intimidation ends. But, as stated by many in the 107-page report, many of the young and vulnerable players feared retaliation by Aldrich, and after seeing how the Blackhawks handled the initial allegations, who can blame them?
All for a Stanley Cup.
This is the most embarrassing scandal in the history of a storied Original Six franchise and a stark reminder of the rampant abuse of power in professional sports as a whole. The NHL and the hockey world need to rid themselves of everyone involved, everyone complicit in the abuse of John Doe 1 and the future victims that followed after Aldrich got a free pass. Bowman, MacIsaac, and the other departed Blackhawks decision-makers involved are gone from the game and will likely never be welcomed back, but this won’t be made right until Joel Quenneville and Kevin Cheveldayoff are gone from the game.
The Florida Panthers are 6-0-0, they’re rolling, and they might have a shot at competing for a Stanley Cup Championship this season. However, the Florida Panthers find themselves in an interesting situation today. They have a choice to make with Joel Quenneville. What’s more important, a shot at winning a Stanley Cup or being a part of the solution in eradicating those involved in this from the game?
For what it’s worth, Quenneville (and Cheveldayoff) are reportedly meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at some point soon. We’ll see where that goes.