The hours and days following the release of an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving the Chicago Blackhawks brought change, outrage and a step forward for Kyle Beach, now identified as "John Doe."
The Blackhawks hired Jenner & Block to conduct what they called an independent review in response to two lawsuits filed against the franchise: one alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010 and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The results of that review were released Tuesday in a virtual press briefing that included Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and lead investigator Reid Schar. The findings were made available to the public shortly after.
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Here's a look at the allegations and what unfolded following the report's release.
A Look at the Allegations
A former player, now identified as Kyle Beach, said Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The lawsuit, filed May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. Beach, who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages, is referred in the document as “John Doe.”
According to the recent investigation, the encounter between John Doe, then 20, and Aldrich, then 27 and a video coach for the Blackhawks, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010. Doe told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player's back, allegations that he also detailed in a lawsuit.
In the report, Aldrich says that the sexual encounter he had with Beach was consensual, and denies any wrongdoing in the case.
Aldrich left the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season.
After Aldrich left the organization, he worked with several colleges before working with a high school team in Michigan. While there, he was accused of sexually assaulting a player.
He later pleaded guilty to charges in the case and was sentenced to nine months in prison. He is now a registered sex offender in the state of Michigan.
A player from that team has also filed suit against the Blackhawks over their handling of the Aldrich case.
The lawsuits filed by Beach and the former Michigan high school player are both still pending, with settlement talks set to take place next week.
What the Report Found
The findings of the investigation into sexual assault by the former Chicago Blackhawks coach, which team CEO Danny Wirtz called “both disturbing and difficult to read,” were released on Tuesday by the franchise.
During the investigation Jenner & Block interviewed 139 witnesses, including the victim and Aldrich. The investigation found that president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac met with John McDonough, Jay Blunk, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Joel Quenneville and James Gary met in May 2010 to discuss the allegations.
No action was taken for three weeks, after the Blackhawks won and celebrated the 2010 Stanley Cup.
Schar said Tuesday accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.”
According to the report, Bowman recalled that, after learning of the incident, Quenneville shook his head and said it was hard for the team to get to where it was, and they could not deal with this issue now.
While announcing in July that he was willing to participate in the team's probe, Quenneville said in a statement that he “first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer.” Cheveldayoff said in a statement that he had no knowledge of the allegations until he was asked if he was aware of anything prior to the end of Aldrich's employment with the Blackhawks.
“What is clear is that after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with a player no action was taken for three weeks,” Schar said.
The report found no evidence of any investigation or contact with human resources before McDonough informed the team's director of human resources about the allegations on June 14 — a delay that violated the Blackhawks' sexual harassment policy and had “consequences,” according to Schar.
“During that period, Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the team,” Schar said. "On June 10th, during an evening of celebration after the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win the previous day, Aldrich made an unwanted sexual advance towards a Blackhawks intern, who was 22 years old at the time.
“Also after the Stanley Cup win, Aldrich continued to participate in celebrations in the presence of John Doe, who had made the complaint.”
On June 16, 2010, according to the report, Aldrich was given the option of resigning or being part of an investigation into what happened with John Doe. Aldrich signed a separation agreement and no investigation was conducted.
Aldrich received a severance and a playoff bonus, according to the report, and he was paid a salary "for several months." He hosted the Stanley Cup for a day in his hometown, and his name was engraved on the iconic trophy.
Schar said the firm found no evidence that Wirtz or his father, Rocky, who owns the team, were aware of the allegations before the former player's lawsuit was brought to their attention ahead of its filing.
In a statement released through his attorney, Susan Loggans, John Doe said he was “grateful for the accountability” shown by the Blackhawks.
“Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization, I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery,” John Doe said.
What Happened After the Report Was Released
Stan Bowman Steps Down as Chicago Blackhawks Make Front Office Changes
Bowman, the Chicago Blackhawks' president of hockey operations and general manager, "stepped aside" from the organization Tuesday afternoon. At the same time, senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac was relieved of his duties.
"We talk a lot about hockey culture. I believe one of the beautiful parts of our game is the focus on team success over individual achievements and accolades," Danny Wirtz said. "But that cannot come at the expense of individual safety and well-being.
"It is clear that in 2010, the executives of this organization put team performance above all else. John Doe deserved better from the Blackhawks. And while we believe we have a strong legal defense, I have instructed our lawyers to see if we can reach a fair resolution consistent with the totality of the circumstances."
Bowman released a statement shortly after the announcement, saying "the team needs to focus on its future, and my continued participation would be a distraction."
"Eleven years ago, while serving in my first year as general manager, I was made aware of potential inappropriate behavior by a then-video coach involving a player," he said. "I promptly reported the matter to the then-President and CEO who committed to handling the matter. I learned this year that the inappropriate behavior involved a serious allegation of sexual assault. I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so."
Kyle Davidson, who's currently the assistant general manager of hockey administration, will serve as the Blackhawks' general manager on an interim basis.
Bowman also informed USA Hockey late Tuesday afternoon that he is stepping down as general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
“In light of what’s happened today, I think it’s in the best interests of USA Hockey for me to step aside,” he said in a statement. “I’m grateful to have been selected and wish our team the very best in Beijing.”
NHL Fines Blackhawks $2 Million, Gary Bettman Releases Statement on 2010 Findings
The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million for "the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response in the handling of matters related to former video coach Brad Aldrich’s employment with the Club and ultimate departure in 2010," the league announced.
The Blackhawks and league have agreed to dedicate $1 million of the fine money to fund local organizations in and around the Chicago community "that provide counseling and training for, and support and assistance to, survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that if Blunk, Bowman, McDonough and MacIsaac wish to re-enter the league, it will require a meeting with the commissioner in advance of accepting any NHL-related job. He also plans to arrange "personal meetings in the near future" with Cheveldayoff and Quenneville, both of whom are employed by different organizations, to "discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report" and will "reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them.
The Panthers declined to comment, citing Bettman's plans to meet with Quenneville. Cheveldayoff said he shared everything he knows with Jenner & Block for its report.
Blackhawks Pen Letter to Fans Addressing Sexual Assault Scandal
The team addressed the flurry of news surrounding the investigation in a letter to fans.
"The Blackhawks are more than just a hockey team. We are a community that is built upon the trust and support of our fans, players, employees, and partners," the letter read. "That trust was shaken when disturbing allegations recently came to light about our handling of sexual misconduct that occurred 11 years ago. When we learned of these detailed allegations as part of recent public reports, our ownership initiated an independent investigation led by the law firm Jenner & Block to determine what occurred and how our organization responded."
The team noted the report revealed "it is clear the organization and its executives at that time did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents."
Read the full letter here.
Kyle Beach Speaks Out for First Time Amid Lawsuit Against Blackhawks
For the first time, former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach is opening up about his experiences after the bombshell report documented how the team failed to act when the prospect reported that he had allegedly been sexually assaulted by a coach.
Beach spoke to TSN’s Rick Westhead in an interview Wednesday evening, saying that although it took him years to speak out about his experiences, he feels that now is the time after the release of the report earlier this week.
“I cried, I smiled, I laughed, and I cried some more,” he said. “My girlfriend and I, we didn’t know how to feel or think. We held each other and supported each other.”
Beach said the alleged assault he suffered caused him great pain, but one of his greatest regrets is feeling that he didn’t do more to help the young player who was later assaulted by Aldrich.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do more,” a visibly emotional Beach said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do more when I could, to make sure that it didn’t happen to him.”
More on his interview here.
Blackhawks' Kane, Toews Address Report and Kyle Beach Revelation
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the only two members from the 2010 Stanley Cup team, addressed the news Wednesday.
Kane, who remains in COVID-19 protocol, requested to speak to the media after the game from his home, according to the Blackhawks' PR, and Toews, who was removed from COVID-19 protocol just before the game, also spoke.
Toews was asked to recall what he knew at the time after Beach came out and said he's certain every single player on the team was aware.
"Listen, at the end of the day, I don’t wish to exonerate myself in this situation in any way by saying I didn’t know," Toews said. "But the truth is that I had not heard about it until training camp the next year. At the end of the day, that doesn’t change what happened. It doesn’t take that away. It doesn’t make it go away. At the end of the day, collectively, as players, if guys did know, hindsight’s 20-20. We wish we could’ve done something differently, myself included."
Kane said he didn't know that John Doe was Beach until he revealed himself on Wednesday.
"Just a terrible situation and very courageous for him to come out and let his name be known to the world after everything he went through," Kane said. "I knew Kyle pretty well from a couple different training camps and just seemed like a happy-go-lucky guy and always in a good mood. So I think hearing that it was him and with the news and with everything going, obviously you feel for him, compassion for him and his family, and wish back then we could’ve done some different things or knew about some different things and maybe we could’ve helped him."
Joel Quenneville Resigns as Panthers Head Coach After Meeting With Gary Bettman
Joel Quenneville is out as head coach of the Florida Panthers after he resigned his post on Thursday night.
The news comes just two days after the findings of the Jenner & Block investigation into the sexual assault allegations against former video coach Bradley Aldrich and the handling of the matters internally were made public.
Quenneville released a statement after the announcement of his resignation.
“I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered,” the coach said. “My former team the Blackhawks failed Kyle, and I own my share of that. I want to reflect on how all of this happened, and take the time to educate myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.”
Quenneville said in July that he was unaware of the allegations until this summer, a stance that he reiterated on Wednesday.