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September 20, 2021 September 20, 2021

Blackhawks’ handling of alleged abuse not good enough

Posted on July 20, 2021 by Sunny South News

By Cole Parkinson
Sunny South News

Since the story was published in May by TSN’s Rick Westhead, the Chicago Blackhawks have not been handling the alleged sexual abuse by a former coach against their players in a positive way.

In early May 2021, an unnamed former Chicago Blackhawks player, who was a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team, filed a lawsuit accusing the team of ignoring allegations that he and a teammate were sexually assaulted by former Blackhawks’ video coach Brad Aldrich.

The lawsuit also claims the former player reported Aldrich’s alleged misconduct to other coaches on the staff. From Rick Westhead’s June 26 story, former Blackhawks’ associate coach John Torchetti, claimed that Paul Vincent, skills coach, told him that he had advised the management group in a May 2010 meeting to go to the police over the allegations.

Vincent had asked James Gary, the team’s mental skills coach, to follow up, and a day later, Vincent said he was called into a team meeting at the team hotel in San Jose with team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, vice-president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, and James Gary.

The TSN story states “Vincent said he asked the team executives to go to the sex crimes unit of the Chicago police department. Vincent said they refused.”

The Blackhawks certainly look like an organization wanting to sweep things under the rug. The Hawks were on their way to winning their first Cup since 1961, so it’s no surprise they were trying to keep things positive at that time, but that’s no excuse. Sometimes doing the hard thing means you’re doing the right thing, which the Blackhawks opted for the easy out.

The Hawks have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuits because “they were not filed within the appropriate limit.” The team has commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations, which one of the players has already stated they won’t take part in.

In a statement sent to TSN, attorney Susan Loggans stated “The Blackhawks have been lying all along, denying in court documents that this sexual misconduct even took place, so why would we have any faith now in an investigation that has been paid for by the Blackhawks?”

It’s hard to fault the player not wanting to participate when the organization has been trying their best to not acknowledge the incident ever took place. And the fact the Blackhawks wouldn’t allow general manager Stan Bowman, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, team sport psychologist James Gary and former team president John McDonough to be interviewed by Loggans in return, it sure seems like a one-sided affair.

Even worse, another lawsuit was filed back in 2014 by a former high school hockey played and within, it stated the Blackhawks provided a positive employment reference to the coach, despite knowing of the past allegations.

The documents state that Aldrich sexually assaulted a high school player on March 6, 2013, when Aldrich was an assistant coach on a high school team in Houghton, Mich. Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in prison plus five years of probation for sexually assaulting the player back in 2014. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

So, if the Blackhawks did indeed provide a positive letter that led to a convicted sexual assault, the management team and the owners need to be held accountable. It’s disgusting if they knew of these allegations only to sweep it under the rug at the NHL level, and then for it to happen once again at a high school, no less.

After leaving the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season, Aldrich worked for Miami University in Ohio as director of hockey operations. According to police reports obtained by TSN, he left after allegations of unwanted sexual touching, though no charges were ever laid. The university has now commissioned an internal investigation into Aldrich’s time at the school.

After attending Northern Michigan University, Aldrich started coaching the Bantam Triple-A team in Marquette, before working as a video coach for the University of Notre Dame. TSN contacted Notre Dame and a representative stated there had been no complaints against Aldrich while he was at the school.

TSN also contacted a parent whose son played on the Bantam Triple-A team. The parent stated “they had concerns right away” with Aldrich and listed a time where some of the players started wrestling at a summer barbecue and Aldrich “jumped into it, but he wasn’t really wrestling.”

No matter how you look at it, the incidents and allegations levied against Aldrich are not flattering in the least. Of course, these are new allegations and Aldrich deserves his day in court, but where there is smoke there’s fire, and there is a ton of smoke following him since his time with the Blackhawks.

Since the story has been making the rounds, plenty of former players, coaches and management staff from Chicago have come out with a variety of comments. Some say it was an open secret known by all the players, others denied ever knowing, and some say they found out after the Stanley Cup win or at a later date. If it was an open secret among players, staff and management, no one working for the Blackhawks looks good.

With the NHL in offseason mode, this story cannot die and needs to be continually talked about for as long as it takes. The vast majority of hockey fans know of Graham James and the destruction he caused for a handful of players, including NHLers Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury. So, it’s not like sexual abuse hasn’t been seen in professional hockey, and these incidents should not be hidden.

Victims’ voices need to be heard and the Blackhawks should be doing everything they can to support the affected players instead of brushing the allegations aside. It’s long overdue for the general public to come together and support the victims of sexual abuse. It happens way too often and these stories about sexual abuse need to continue to be spread in order to, not only spread awareness, but also expose those who take advantage of others.

If people don’t let these stories die, those in power and organizations who do nothing about sexual abuse will eventually be forced to face the consequences.

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