Yeah, I’m behind on this a bit but there was no way I would let this go because it’s one of the worst things ever perpetrated in sport.
We know now that the Chicago Blackhawks did indeed try to cover up the sexual assault of at least one of its players back in 2010. We know that because of the lawsuit filed by John Doe in May of this year. That player ended up becoming Kyle Beach, who outed himself in late last month. What a feeling that must have been and I can’t even begin to imagine how this had been hanging over his head for more than a decade.
Listening to that interview Beach gave to Rick Westhead of TSN was jarring at best, tragic at worst. Beach was abused by someone in a position of power at a young age — 20 is a young age in professional hockey, the age Beach was when it happened — and felt powerless to do anything about it. Just like anyone else who has been abused by someone in a position of power and is then threatened with all sorts of intimidation if it ever sees the light of day.
The investigation into it all just made what was a distasteful situation that much worse — that the Blackhawks knew about this as soon as it happened but didn’t want to do anything to ruin the momentum of their Stanley Cup run that year. Letting Brad Aldrich, the pervert dirtbag who did this to Beach and who knows how many other people, walk away as his punishment instead of making him explain his actions or even face criminal charges is the height of disgust but not surprising considering this is how hockey teams were run once upon a time.
Even more disgusting? The Blackhawks let Aldrich celebrate with the team after they won it all in 2010, knowing full well he shouldn’t have been there.
The sword fell quickly as Stan Bowman, the team’s now-former general manager, and Al MacIsaac, the now-former senior vice-president of hockey operations, resigned following the findings of the investigation. They were on that 2010 team and it’s now public knowledge that Bowman knew exactly what went on yet didn’t say anything to anyone above him. That simply allowed Aldrich to carry on doing his thing, which included Miami University in Ohio, where he was accused of sexual assault there and resigned, and a high school in Houston, Michigan, where he committed another sexual assault which he was convicted of. Thank Christ for high schools in this case.
Joel Quenneville was the head coach at the time and was coach of the Florida Panthers when the findings became public. I saw was because he’s no longer as he stepped down after meeting with National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman. Why did it take a meeting with Bettman to figure that one out?
In talking about it on ESPN, John Tortorella, himself a former head coach in the NHL — and one of my favourite coaches — perhaps said it best: what if it was their kid? And that’s the perfect question to ask. As many as eight grown men were involved in burying this as deep as they could and not one of them stopped to think about the golden rule of putting yourself in their shoes. How pathetic. I don’t care what statement the Blackhawks made to say about how they were so sorry and how Beach was so brave to come forward and tell his story. The team knew then and it knows now. Stick it back in your ass.
And what about the NHL Players Association? That exists as a protective vehicle for the players and if the NHLPA knew about this and did nothing to help Beach, heads need to roll beginning with Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director. Fehr has admitted the NHLPA failed Beach but there needs to be more digging to see exactly where the ball was dropped.
And wasn’t that quite the punishment meted out by the NHL? $2 million for “inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response in the handling of matters related to former video coach Brad Aldrich’s employment.” Oh. That’ll show them. Just so you know, the Blackhawks make around $2 million each home game so that fine has probably been taken care of. Rocky Wirtz, the club’s owner, has asked for Aldrich’s name to be removed from the Stanley Cup and the Hockey Hall of Fame, the keeper of the Cup when it isn’t making the rounds on tour, will honour the request. That’s one good thing because there’s no way I would ever associate myself with a convicted dirtbag like Aldrich.
This won’t go away anytime soon and I’m glad it won’t. The Blackhawks tried to make this go away but Kyle Beach made sure it didn’t. I only hope this hangs over the head of the team forever as a reminder of how not to handle allegations of sexual assault within its walls.
A pox on the team now and forever.
(James McCarthy is sports editor for Northern News Services.)