On Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks released the findings of an independent investigation into various sexual assault claims dating back to 2009.
Amongst the 107 page report by Jenner & Block were claims against video coach Brad Aldrich and his various sick fantasies involving a number of players through his service with the Blackhawks and in junior hockey.
Through a thorough investigation, nearly each and every claim – brought about either publicly or off the record – has in some shape or form been proven true. The Blackhawks are not looking good for their decision to pursue championships over appropriate personnel decisions and legal action to a criminal case.
The report found that general manager Stan Bowman met with president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, president and CEO John McDonough, vice president Jay Blunk, assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Joel Quenneville and mental skills coach James Gary in May of 2010 to talk about the allegations, but opted not to take any action until after the team won the Stanley Cup in June.
Due to this decision, Aldrich went on to coach minor and high school hockey, further taking advantage of even younger prey. He was arrested in Houghton in 2013, pleading guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor.
On Tuesday afternoon, the team announced that Bowman had left his post with the team, while no front office or staff member from the 2010 Stanley Cup winning team would remain as a Blackhawks employee, due to what is being dubbed as a sizeable cover-up job.
The NHL also stepped in and fined Chicago $2 million, just $1 million short of the penalty that the New Jersey Devils were required to pay after circumventing the league’s salary cap regarding a contract for then forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
“Today’s fine represents a direct and necessary response to the failure of the Club to follow-up and address the 2010 incident in a timely and appropriate manner,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “And, this response should send a clear message to all NHL Clubs and all NHL personnel that inappropriate acts must be addressed in a timely fashion. In that regard, we also reiterate that the League has implemented a confidential and anonymous Hot Line, which is available at any time to all NHL personnel.”
Cheveldayoff and Quenneville worked within the Blackhawks’ front office at the time of the unwanted sexual advances, assaults and cover-ups. With a focus on making a strong push for the Stanley Cup, Chicago team staff opted to let the allegations slide so the club could focus on winning hockey games.
Now 11 years later, thanks to many bold and courageous individuals, various truths from the seemingly dark past have come back into light. And those truths do not reflect well upon the individuals who made the decision to let the claims slide.
“I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks,” current Jets GM Cheveldayoff said back on July 22. “After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement. As this is a legal matter before the courts, I will not be making any further comment.”
Quenneville issued a similar response when asked by reporters in his new Florida dwelling place.
Although Chevy’s timeline of when he was ‘made aware’ of the claims and misconduct exhibited by Aldrich does seemingly check out, his participation in putting a championship ahead of what has become a criminal investigation is unsightly behaviour. Bowman has already lost his job, while Quenneville – who is currently behind the bench of the first-place Florida Panthers – has certainly been hearing it from those familiar with the findings of the investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bettman announced his next plan of action following the report from Jenner & Block.
“I plan to arrange personal meetings in the near future with both individuals to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report,” Bettman said of Cheveldayoff and Quenneville. “I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them.”
Quenneville will meet with Bettman on Thursday, while Cheveldayoff is set to have his conversation with the NHL’s commissioner next Monday.
Within the Jenner & Block report, it was detailed that Cheveldayoff did in fact remember the meeting. He knew of Blackhawks players being in contact with Aldrich outside of the rink, which also involved textual conversations containing sexually explicit content. He was also aware of actions, gestures and sexual touching of players by Aldrich.
The report indicated that Cheveldayoff felt a sense of shock as he learned of Aldrich’s behaviour, as well as his push for separation between the players and the team’s video coach.
On Tuesday evening, the Jets’ GM released a statement indicating his thorough participation in the investigation and his truthfulness in speaking of the serious matter.
“I have shared everything I know about this matter as part of my participation in Jenner & Block’s investigation,” the statement read. “That is reflected in today’s investigation report. Further, I look forward to my discussion with Commissioner Bettman at the soonest possible date to continue to cooperate fully with the National Hockey League. I will reserve any further comment until after that conversation has been conducted.”
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