A report released Tuesday paints a damning picture of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team’s failures in responding to allegations of sexual assault by one of its coaches against a player, and now two top Blackhawks executives have resigned.
An investigation conducted by the law firm of Jenner and Block shows a record of “cover-ups and indifference by the Blackhawks organization when presented with multiple instances of corroborated sexual assault accusations against … their own employee,” Sports Illustrated reports.
A player identified (until Wednesday night) only as John Doe has alleged he was assaulted in 2010 by Brad Aldrich, then the Blackhawks’ video coach, in charge of preparing game footage for other Blackhawks coaches. Doe was a player with one of the team’s minor league affiliates and had been called up to the Blackhawks “to serve as a ‘Black Ace,’ a prospect player who could be available to play for the Blackhawks if needed,” according to the Jenner and Block report. Investigators with the firm, led by partner Reid Schar, interviewed Doe, Aldrich, and others about the alleged assault. The Blackhawks commissioned the investigation after Doe filed a lawsuit in May of this year alleging the assault and accusing the team’s management of failing to properly address the matter.
Kyle Beach, who was drafted by the Blackhawks but never played in a regular season or playoff game with the team, revealed Wednesday that he is John Doe. He has played professional hockey in Canada and Germany.
“John Doe stated, among other details, that on one occasion, during the second week of May 2010, Aldrich invited him to his apartment, provided him with dinner and drinks, told him he had the power to get John Doe onto the Blackhawks’ roster, and turned on pornography,” the Jenner and Block report says. “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, forcibly performed oral sex on John Doe, masturbated on John Doe’s back, and then threatened John Doe again before John Doe was able to escape Aldrich’s apartment.” Aldrich said he had a sexual encounter with Doe but that it was “entirely consensual.”
On May 23, 2010, a Blackhawks employee told Al MacIsaac, senior director of hockey administration, that there may have been a sexual encounter between Doe and Aldrich. MacIsaac asked Jim Gary, the team’s mental skills coach and team counselor, to speak to Doe that day. “Gary obtained limited, yet still very troubling information from John Doe that Gary believed to be true: that Aldrich was pressuring John Doe to have sex with him and that Aldrich told John Doe that if John Doe did not comply, Aldrich could harm John Doe’s career,” the report states.
The same day, the Blackhawks won a playoff game that took them to the Stanley Cup finals, and then five members of the team’s senior management met with Gary and Joel Quenneville, who was then head coach. Jenner and Block obtained varying accounts of how the meeting ended, but “regardless of who was, or was perceived to be, responsible for handling the situation, Aldrich continued to travel and work with the team, and participate in team activities throughout the playoffs,” the investigators note. “We found no evidence that any action was taken to address the issue until after the playoffs ended.”
On June 16, after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the team’s director of human resources met with Aldrich and gave him the choice of submitting to an investigation or resigning. He resigned, receiving a severance package and a playoff bonus, and he was permitted to engage in all the Stanley Cup celebration activities, and there was no investigation.
Aldrich went on to work for the U.S. national hockey team and for high school and college teams. While working at Houghton High School in Michigan, he was arrested on sexual assault charges. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to fourth-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor. The high school player has now filed suit against the Blackhawks.
Another minor league player, identified in the report as Black Ace 1, said he received texts from Aldrich around the same time as the alleged assault of Doe took place, which Aldrich proposing to have oral sex with Black Ace 1. Both he and Aldrich said no sexual encounter ever took place, but rumors of one followed Black Ace 1 for years; in 2014 a teammate used a gay slur toward him and asked if he “liked that blow job or what.”
A Blackhawks intern told Jenner and Block investigators that Aldrich made a sexual advance to him in 2010 as well, grabbing his genitals in a taxi. Aldrich later begged the intern not to tell anyone, saying, “People like me kill themselves where I’m from.” The intern took that as a statement that Aldrich was gay. The intern did not report the incident to human resources, and Aldrich has denied making that advance.
The Jenner and Block report concludes, “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.”
Since the report’s release, MacIsaac and Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman have left their positions. The team’s owner and chairman, Rocky Wirtz, has announced that no one involved in the 2010 matter will remain with the Blackhawks. The NHL has fined the Blackhawks $2 million, and Commissioner Gary Bettman said he will meet with Quenneville, who is now coach of the Florida Panthers and had previously denied any knowledge of John Doe’s accusations against Aldrich.
Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz issued an apology during a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Chicago public radio station WBEZ reports. “We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and our failures to address these allegations as we became aware of it,” he said. He has asked the team’s lawyers to reach a “fair resolution” to the suits from Doe and the Houghton student, he added.
“As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to these individuals who suffered from the misconduct of our former employee,” Wirtz said. “We must and will do better.”
Beach revealed that he is John Doe in an interview with Canadian network TSN's Sportscentre program. "I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by Doc [James] Gary and nothing happened," Beach said on the show. "It was like [Aldrich's] life was the same as the day before. Same every day. And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing." Now that the report is out, he felt "relief and vindication" and "it was no longer my word against everybody else's," he said.
The Blackhawks issued a statement shortly after the interview aired, saying, "First, we would like to acknowledge and commend Kyle Beach's courage in coming forward. As an organization, the Chicago Blackhawks reiterate our deepest apologies to him for what he has gone through and for the organization's failure to promptly respond when he bravely brought this matter to light in 2010. It was inexcusable for the then-executives of the Blackhawks organization to delay taking action regarding the reported sexual misconduct. No playoff game or championship is more important than protecting our players and staff from predatory behavior."