Investigation Finds Team Covered Up Alleged Sexual Assault Against Employee
Current and former officials with the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks are facing a reckoning this week after an independent investigation revealed that the team violated its own sexual harassment policy and covered up allegations of sexual assault against a team employee in 2010.
According to a report from law firm Jenner and Block’s investigation, Blackhawks leadership showed “indifference” in responding to allegations that then-Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted reserve player Kyle Beach during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs campaign.
In interviews conducted by investigators, Beach, who until Wednesday had been referred to as John Doe, detailed his experience with Aldrich during the second week of May 2010. “Aldritch invited [Beach] 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 report states.
“John Doe stated that Aldritch 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 JohnDoe, masturbated on John Doe’s back and then threatened John Doe again before John Doe was able to escape Aldritch’s apartment.”
Aldritch told investigators that Beach consented to the sexual encounter. Investigators determined that incidents in Aldritch’s post-NHL coaching career indicated a pattern of sexual misconduct. They cited that Aldritch pled guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor in 2013. Aldritch had been working at Houghton, MI’s Houghton High School when he was arrested for sexually assaulting a member of the school’s hockey team. Both Beach and the Houghton High School player filed separate lawsuits against the Blackhawks organization in May 2021.
Afraid it Could ‘Disturb Team Chemistry’ Executives Said To Have Agreed To Say Nothing
According to the report, Blackhawks executive Al MacIssac was made aware of Beach’s claims on May 23, 2010, the same night that the Blackhawks clinch a birth in the Stanley Cup finals. Team counselor Jim Gary spoke with Beach, at MacIssac’s request, and believed Beach’s account to be credible.
That sparked an impromptu meeting prior to that night’s game between MacIssac, Gary, general manager Stan Bowman, assistant general manager Kevin Chevaldayoff, president and CEO John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and head coach Joel Quenneville. The report states that the meeting ended with the group deciding not to inform human resources of Beach’s accusations, with McDonough telling the team’s HR director that doing so could “disturb team chemistry” ahead of a championship series.
The report points to Quenneville making similar statements after learning of the claims against Aldritch, saying that his eventual Stanley Cup champion team “could not handle this right now.” The team wouldn’t address the situation until June 16, 2010, shortly after the team won the Stanley Cup. Aldrich met with HR and the organization’s outside legal counsel and was given the choice of resigning or face an investigation.
Aldrich chose to resign, receiving $20,622 in severance pay, a $15,000 playoff bonus and permission to be present at team Stanley Cup celebrations, including taking the historic trophy to Houghton, Aldrich’s hometown. At no point were the claims against Aldrich investigated.
A former team intern who accompanied Aldrich during his trip to Houghton with the Cup told investigators that Aldrich grabbed his crotch after sharing a cab days before Aldrich’s resignation.
Investigators highlighted the inaction on the part of Blackhawks brass as a violation of the team’s sexual harassment policy, which calls for investigations of reports to be done “promptly and thoroughly…The failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate the matter and the decision to take no action from May 23 to June 14 had consequences,” the report reads.
Speaking with TSN Sportscentre, Beach said he was disappointed with the Blackhawks organization’s handling of Aldrich. “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,” Beach said.
Team Fined $2 Million. Top Executives Resigned This Week. Owner Promises To Clean House.
The report’s release sent shockwaves through the Blackhawks organization that have now extended to the entire league. Both top executives Bowman and MacIssac resigned from their positions with the team this week. Blackhawks owner and chairman Rocky Wirtz announced that all members of the organization involved in the handling of Aldrich in 2010 would no longer be involved in anything related to the team going forward.
The NHL fined the team $2 million for how it handled the situation and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with now-Florida Panthers coach Quenneville to discuss his role in the matter. Quenneville resigned from his position with the Panthers on Thursday following his meeting with Bettman. He and Chevaldayoff, who is currently the Winnepeg Jets general manager, were the only people present for the May 23, 2010 meeting who have publicly denied being part of it or having knowledge of Beach’s claims at that time.
The NHL announced Friday that Chevaldayoff will not be disciplined in relation to the controversy. In a statement, the league said Cheveldayoff “was not responsible for the improper decisions made by the Chicago Blackhawks related to the Brad Aldrich matter.” Beach is currently scheduled to meet with Bettman and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr on Saturday.
The Blackhawks organization praised Beach’s courage and offered him its “deepest apologies” in a statement Wednesday. “As an organization, the Chicago Blackhawks reiterate our deepest apologies to [Beach] 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,” the Blackhawks said. “It was inexcusable for 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.”