CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010, according to an investigation commissioned by the franchise that cast a shadow over the NHL on Tuesday.
Stan Bowman, the general manager and president of hockey operations, resigned in the wake of the findings by an outside law firm, and the NHL fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”
Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who were with the Blackhawks when the sexual assault allegations were first reported, also were named in the report. There was no immediate word from either of their teams on their status.
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.
Team CEO Danny Wirtz called the report “both disturbing and difficult to read,” and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said it “makes clear that senior management’s handling of the alleged incident included a failure to report the matter to Chicago ownership, both as to what was alleged and how it was being handled.”
Bowman said he was stepping aside because he didn’t want to be a distraction for the team.
“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 in a statement released by the team. “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.”
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said Tuesday that Bowman, former team president John McDonough, hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac, former executive vice president Jay Blunk and then-assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with then-coach Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations in May 2010.
Schar said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.”
“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.
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 would participate in the team’s probe, Quenneville said in a statement that he “first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer.”
Bettman said he would “reserve judgment” on Quenneville and Cheveldayoff and plans to meet with them to discuss their roles in the situation.
Cheveldayoff had said in a statement released by the Jets in July that he “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.
“After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement.”
USA Hockey did not immediately have any comment on Bowman’s status as GM for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Aldrich left the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season.
A former player 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. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”
The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.
Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in prison for the Michigan assault.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno reported from Washington.
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Jay Cohen And Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press