As If an 0-6 Start to the Season Wasn’t Enough, Blackhawks Officially Hit Rock Bottom With The Release of Shocking Report

I know I don’t write many blogs, but when I do it’s usually because I have a specific vision for the topic I’m writing about and because I had a few jokes immediately pop into my head that I want to get out into the innerwebs. That is not the case here. When I saw the news break yesterday that Al MacIsaac and Stan Bowman were out in the Blackhawks front office, I knew I wanted to write a blog about it, but I didn’t even know where I would start and I knew there would be no jokes to be had. This story is all around horrifying and it sets an all-time low for the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

The Backstory

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the story surrounding yesterday’s changes in the Blackhawks front office, it all dates back to the first Stanley Cup run back in 2010. Sadly, the events that took place more than a decade ago were just brought to light in May of 2021 when an unnamed ex-player within the Blackhawks organization filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Blackhawks alleging that he was sexually assaulted by the Blackhawks video coach at the time, Brad Aldrich. The unnamed player who is officially referred to as John Doe also claims that this alleged assault was brought to the Blackhawks attention, but never acted upon. When the lawsuit was filed back in May, the Blackhawks hired an independent law firm, Jenner & Block to conduct an investigation into the allegations brought forth by John Doe and promised to make the findings public.

Fast forward to yesterday and the report that was put together by Jenner & Block was released and let’s just say:

The Report

The report from Jenner & Block was put together by Reid Schar, partner and co-chair of the law firm. The report was a 107-page document that details the timeline, nature of the alleged assault as detailed by both John Doe and Brad Aldrich, aftermath from the incident, and how the Blackhawks handled the situation.

Now I haven’t read a book in probably 7 or 8 years, but I took the time to read this entire document and it made my skin crawl at times. I’m going to talk about some of the main points that stuck out to me as well as some quotes from members of the Blackhawks front office at the time, but if you want to read the entire report yourself, you can find that here. As most media outlets have done, I will warn once again that some of the details are very disturbing and you should read this at your own risk. Not for the faint of heart.

The first thing that jumped out to me that was mentioned in the first few pages of the report is that 139 witnesses were interviewed including John Doe, Brad Aldrich, Blackhawks executives, former and current Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs players, and outside witnesses not associated with the Blackhawks. They also “collected over 100 gigabytes of electronic records from over 145 individuals and 49 boxes of hard copy records.” This shows to me that they clearly took this very seriously and left no stone unturned. With that being said, I’m gonna rattle off some other highlights from the report in bulletproof form:

  • In 2010 the Blackhawks had a Team Handbook that was last updated in 2005. My employer makes everyone take a sexual harassment class annually
  • The “Team Rules” for the 2010 season that was laid out for the players did not cover sexual harassment…Yikes, this might’ve flown in the ’50s, but not in the year 2010
  • While the Team Handbook did clearly lay out sexual harassment and the potential consequences, most employees were unaware of what the policy was
  • Based on his performance reviews, Brad Aldrich seemed to be performing his duties as a video coach well, but as a person had several complaints
  • In a performance review written by former GM Dale Tallon, Tallon had this to say about Aldrich, “[i]f there was an area where [Aldrich] had some adjusting to do[,]it was in his personality” and Aldrich “has very high confidence in his ability to the point where it borders on arrogance.”
  • Various other witnesses used the following to describe Aldrich: “cocky, creepy, peculiar, standoffish, and arrogant” Those descriptions come from at least 3 separate witnesses.
  • John Doe was a “Black Ace” which is a minor league player that travels with the big league club during the playoffs in case of injury or illness to several of the NHL players.
  • Another one of the Black Aces, referred to as “Black Ace 1” in the report seemed to have a very similar relationship with Aldrich that John Doe did. Witnesses claimed that Black Ace 1 was also sexually assaulted by Aldrich, but he adamantly denied this claim on several occasions. These claims were brought up several times during the report in different forms.
  • While several witnesses say it was odd for coaches and players to be socializing as much as Aldrich and several of the Black Aces were, the Black Aces claim to spend time with Aldrich because he was close with the coaching staff and could provide them with information on their standing within the organization.
  • The actual detailed account of the sexual encounter between John Doe and Brad Aldrich is very difficult to read. John Doe claims it was nonconsensual, Aldrich claims it was consensual. Both parties lay out their side of the story and the stories vary in several ways, but both stories do have a number of details that are the same or very similar.
  • John Doe’s account of the encounter states that Aldrich threatened he could “make sure you never play in the NHL”
  • John Doe had a confidant that corroborates his side of the story for the most part.

The next part of the story is what ultimately cost Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac their jobs yesterday. We will see if there will be any other dominos that fall this week, but my guess is yes based on what will be highlighted next:

  • Following the encounter between John Doe and Brad Aldrich, the first person within the Blackhawks organization that found out was Paul Vincent, the Blackhawks skating coach in 2010.
  • Following practice while the team was in San Jose during the 2010 Western Conference Finals, Vincent spoke with John Doe after saying he seemed distraught. John Doe claimed that Paul Vincent told him he would take the issue with Aldrich to the “proper people”
  • Paul Vincent claims he told John McDonough, Stan Bowman, Al MacIsaac, and Jim Gary (Blackhawks mental skills coach in 2010) about the conversation with John Doe while they were in San Jose and told them they should get the Chicago Police Department involved. These 4 all claim such conversations never occurred.
  • What the report does not touch on is that Paul Vincent was a highly regarded assistant coach in the NHL. After winning a Stanley Cup in 2010 and returning to the playoffs in 2011, Vincent was not resigned by the Blackhawks. He was immediately signed by Blackhawks former GM, Dale Tallon who was with the Florida Panthers at the time. Seems odd to me that a highly regarded skills coach who had developed some of the most skilled teams in the NHL in the early 2010’s is not brought back. This is clearly my speculation, but I believe Vincent did tell upper management and he was forced out for being the whistleblower.
  • Slowly word spread throughout the front office about the incident and culminated with a closed door meeting following the Blackhawks Western Conference Final clinching win in Game 4 on May 23, 2010. This meeting included Jim Gary (Mental Skills Coach), John McDonough (Team President), Stan Bowman (General Manager), Al MacIsaac (Senior Director of Hockey Administration), Kevin Cheveldayoff (Assistant General Manager), Jay Blunk (Senior Vice President of Business Operations), and Joel Quenneville (Head Coach). Joel Quenneville was invited to join after about 25 minutes of discussion according to the report.
  • “Bowman recalled that, after learning of the incident, Quenneville shook his head and said that it was hard for the team to get to where they were, and they could not deal with this issue now” Not a good look for Joel, but it seems like Bowman always hated Joel so I could see him throwing Joel under the bus.
  • “Bowman further recalled that he asked McDonough what McDonough wanted to do and McDonough responded that Bowman should leave it to McDonough. Bowman stated that when the meeting ended, Bowman believed the issue was in McDonough’s hands and everyone else should focus on the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals.” Terrible accountability by the team’s GM. According to the report Stan never followed up with John on this matter. Stan echoed this lack of accountability on his part in his departing statement yesterday which I will touch on later.
  • “MacIsaac remembered little else about the meeting, including how it ended and what was to occur following the meeting related to the incident.”
  • “McDonough otherwise had virtually no recollection of the discussion after the issue had been raised”
  • “McDonough stated that this was the first and last time he recalled discussing this issue”
  • “According to the then-Director of Human Resources, three weeks later, on June 14, McDonough called the Director into his office and told her that he learned of an incident a few weeks earlier involving Aldrich”
  • “Jay Blunk, then a Senior Vice President and present for the meeting in McDonough’s office, recalled someone saying that Aldrich may have propositioned a player, who Blunk believed was identified during the meeting as John Doe. Blunk recalled that someone said they were going to look into the issue and substantiate it. Blunk recalled no other substantive details from the meeting.
  • This last series of quotes really stuck out to me. First off John McDonough comes off as the biggest scumbag on the planet as well as the world’s biggest moron. First says the meeting in his office was the first and last time the issue was discussed, yet HR claims they talked with McDonough just weeks later on the matter. HR also claims that this was a meeting that John McDonough called for. So either John McDonough is a complete and utter moron or just a bold faced liar. I’m not going to rule out the possibility of both.
  • The other thing that stuck out to me from this series of quotes is that basically everyone who was at the meeting in John McDonough’s office had little recollection of what was said during this meeting. I understand that this meeting took place more than 10 years ago, but something of this magnitude feels like something that would be burned into your memory pretty good. Basically all they could confirm is that John Doe was allegedly assaulted by Brad Aldrich. Seeing as these interviews were conducted following the lawsuit being filed, these details are a no brainer.
  • No action was taken for 3 weeks following this meeting. Meeting was held on May 23, HR was notified of the matter on June 14 (5 days after the Stanley Cup was won). Seems pretty obvious that the team never planned to do anything during the playoffs.
  • Aldrich was allowed to celebrate the championship with the team. During the teams tour around Chicago with the Cup, Aldrich inappropriately touches a 22-year old intern, but the intern did not report this incident
  • On June 15, 2010 after talking to McDonough, HR calls Aldrich and said they need to talk immediately
  • On June 16, 2010 Aldrich was given two options, take unpaid leave while the Blackhawks investigate the matter or resign. Aldrich chose to resign as he was afraid the investigation would out him as gay.
  • Aldrich was given $20,000+ in severance, $15,000 in playoff bonus, a Stanley Cup Championship ring, his name on the Stanley Cup, and granted the tradition of hosting the Stanley Cup in his hometown for a day
  • The report concludes that “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. One witness recalled that the decision on how to proceed was left in McDonough’s hands and another witness recalled McDonough saying he would speak to John Doe. McDonough did nothing to address the allegations until June 14, when he reported the information to the Director of Human Resources. While there was a lack of recollection as to whether anyone else present in the meeting besides McDonough needed to or would take any additional steps, nothing was done by the other senior leaders to address the situation.

As a result, 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. Even after the allegations were finally reported to the Director of Human Resources, still no investigation occurred, and Aldrich was permitted to resign his position and to continue participating in Stanley Cup victory events.”

The Aftermath

So there you have it. The Blackhawks organization failed a 20-year old kid every step of the way and their actions, or nonactions for that matter, would effect many others along the way. As I mentioned earlier, it seems possible that Black Ace 1 might have also been a victim of Aldrich. That is clearly speculation as Black Ace 1 claims nothing ever happened between him and Aldrich, but multiple witnesses claim that something did happen. Usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Hopefully this is not the case, but many times victims of these crimes live in fear of telling the truth, whether it be from embarrassment or their attacker threatening them. According to John Doe, Aldrich used his power over these players to get what he wanted by threatening their careers.

Additionally, the report lays out the various high profile jobs that Brad Aldrich held following his resignation from the Blackhawks due to the fact that the Blackhawks did not investigate these claims thoroughly. Aldrich would go on to work for USA Hockey, Miami University of Ohio, the University of Notre Dame, and Houghton High School in his hometown of Houghton, Michigan. While the report states that the Blackhawks never helped him get any of these jobs (they were never listed as references and never wrote a letter of recommendation), they could have eliminated from consideration if they had done in investigation and released the same findings that were found in this report. While Aldrich did not use the Blackhawks as a resource in the hiring process for these jobs, it is probably pretty easy to get a job of this magnitude when you have a Stanley Cup Championship ring on your finger.

While serving as head coach of Houghton High School’s Men’s Hockey team in 2013 Aldrich was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a member of that team, a minor at the time. Aldrich plead guilty to 4th degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor and was sentenced to 9 months in prison, 5 years probation, and had to register as a sex offender. The Blackhawks inaction indirectly effected this young man’s life as well. Had they spoke up in 2010, this assault likely never happens. This individual has also filed a lawsuit against the Blackhawks.

Based on the report it seems like the only people who really tried to help John Doe throughout this process were his own confidant who did not work for the Blackhawks, Paul Vincent, and Jim Gary. However, the report does claim that according to John Doe, Jim Gary would later try to blame John Doe for the incident saying “he put himself in that situation”. Following the closed door meeting in John McDonough’s office it seems that this issue was never followed up on until several weeks later, once the Stanley Cup Finals and championship parade were over. The Blackhawks were hoping to just sweep this all under the rug and hope the negative press would evade them.

That brings us to yesterday and the fallout that ensued from the findings of this report:

  • Stan Bowman- “Stepped aside” following the reports release. He also “stepped aside” as GM of the 2022 USA Men’s Olympic Hockey team. Below is the statement he released where, once again, he took no accountability for his role in this and didn’t even bother to apologize to the victims. Commissioner Gary Bettman also stated that Stan Bowman would have to be cleared by the commissioner to return to an NHL job in the future. That seems unlikely to me so it seems his career may be over. I’m not one to wish ill will on people, especially someone who I don’t personally know, but it seems fair that since the Blackhawks effectively ruined John Doe’s career, they should have to live with the same fate.
  • Al MacIsaac – “Stepped aside” as well. MacIsaac will also be required to be cleared by the commissioner to work in the NHL again. He did not release a statement as far as I am aware which to me shows he is also not remorseful for his role. These were the final two members of the front office from 2010 that were still with the team.
  • John McDonough – Was fired from the Blackhawks last year and will also need the commissioner’s approval to re-enter the league. He seems to be the biggest problem with this whole saga. He was the head of the Blackhawks front office at the time with a lot of younger executives working under him. Many witnesses claim that he said he would handle the situation and it seems like he put this on the back burner and put the team’s success over anything else.
  • Jay Blunk – Resigned in August/September 2021 from the Blackhawks. This was obviously after the lawsuit was filed so it remains to be seen if he did this to try to separate himself from the situation or if Al/Stan were trying to save face and let him go to get as much of the old regime out before this report was published. Bluck joins Bowman, McDonough, and MacIsaac as someone who will need to be cleared by the commissioner to hold an NHL job again.
  • Kevin Cheveldayoff – Left the Blackhawks in 2011 to become the General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets, a position he currently still holds. Bettman said he will meet with Cheveldayoff in the near future to discuss his role in the events from 2010. My guess is he will be fired or resign in the near future.
  • Jim Gary – Retired after last year. Like I said before he seemed like he wanted to help out John Doe, but ultimately he also did nothing to ensure that this issue was resolved in a timely manner
  • Joel Quenneville – Boy this one is tough. Joel seems like a genuinely good guy and is one of, if not the best coach of all time. According to the report it seems like he also just wanted to push this issue off on the front office and focus on the team and win the Stanley Cup. You could make the argument that this was above his pay grade, but if you know something of this magnitude you have to say something. Just like everyone else involved, he is equally guilty of not pressing the front office to do something immediately. He could have followed up with McDonough, he could’ve gone to HR himself, but instead he decided to leave it in his superior’s hands and just focus on the team. Quenneville will also meet with Bettman to discuss his role in these events and it should be very interesting to see how his case gets handled. I think if anyone in this group has a chance to keep his job, it would be Joel, but it seems like an unlikely scenario. He has the Panthers rolling right now, but he could easily be receiving a pink slip as well. I could also see a situation where the Panthers ask him to resign to eliminate the distraction
  • John Doe – Man do I feel for this guy. Had his whole world turned upside down. He had to live with this for a long time and it took an immense amount of bravery to come forward and bring this situation to light. This effected his playing career, it is rumored that it effected his marriage and ultimately lead to his divorce, he was ridiculed by teammates as rumors followed him around. He deserved so much better from the Chicago Blackhawks and it good to see that correct actions are finally being taken. They’re a decade too late, but hopefully this can help provide some closure for him and he can move on with his life
  • The Wirtz family – Rocky and Danny Wirtz provided a press conference yesterday stating they knew nothin about the allegations until the lawsuit was formed. I hope this is the truth and according to the report it seems like is. They have an extreme uphill battle ahead of them to completely reshape the front office and bring a culture to this organization that will never allow anything like this to happen again. The Blackhawks announced yesterday that Kyle Davidson will serve as interim GM. I don’t know much about him, but anything is better than Stan at this point. He will have his work cut out for him to dig the organization out of this hole.
  • Jeremy Colliton – Colliton was not involved in this situation in any manner as he was not with the organization at the time of the incident, but I think it is interesting to see how the ramifications of this report effect him. Emily Kaplan reported earlier this week that Stan would not fire Colliton because of their close relationship. Well Stan is gone and the team is 0-6. Fans and analysts have been calling for Colliton’s head the last couple days and I would not be surprised if Kyle Davidson’s first move as GM is to let Colliton go and bring in his own coach. Barring a 4 or 5-game winning streak, I would assume Colliton is gone before Thanksgiving.

For those who have stuck with me for nearly 4000 words I appreciate it. Hockey is the one thing in this world that I have loved longer than anything other than my family and friends. I think when you hear people talk about hockey players it is usually nothing, but glowing remarks and it is stuff like this that tarnishes this game. There is no place in our game for this type of behavior. I’ve played hockey since I was 5 and I’ve had every type of coach imaginable from my dad, to the coach that screams at you, to the coach that is the ultimate players coach who is a friend first and coach second, and everything in between. The one common denominator between all of these types of coaches is I always felt safe with them and I always felt like they had my best interest in mind. No player should ever live in fear of their coach and should feel threatened anytime they are around. It’s terrible that these type of things keep happening and hopefully this story will shed some light on these type of issues and help eliminate them from the game we all love.

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