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Blackhawks fined $2 million, GM Bowman out after investigation

NHL says Chicago mishandled conduct related to allegations of sexual assault by former assistant coach in 2010

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks were fined $2 million, and Stan Bowman is out as their president of hockey operations and general manager, following an independent investigation of a former player's allegations of sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the fine was the result of the Blackhawks' "inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response in the handling of matters" related to the incident.

Blackhawks owner and chairman Rocky Wirtz, and CEO Danny Wirtz announced that Bowman was leaving the organization after Reid Schar, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Jenner & Block LLP, read the findings of his firm's independent investigation.

"Rocky and I appreciate Stan's dedication to the Blackhawks and his many years of work for the team. However, we and he ultimately accept that, in his first year as general manager, he made a mistake, alongside our other senior executives at the time, and did not take adequate action in 2010," said Danny Wirtz, who called the investigation's final report "both disturbing and difficult to read."

Bowman, who joined the Blackhawks in 2000, was named general manager July 14, 2009 and became president of hockey operations Dec. 16, 2020. He was the first general manager to win the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013 and 2015) in the NHL salary cap era.

Bowman was replaced by Kyle Davidson, who joined the Blackhawks in 2010 as a hockey operations intern and was named assistant general manager of hockey administration prior to this season.

Bowman also stepped down as GM of the United States men's ice hockey team for the 2022 Beijing Olympics; he was named to the position March 31.

"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," Bowman said in a statement. "I promptly reported the matter to the then-president and CEO (John McDonough) 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."

According to Schar's findings, a 20-year-old player who was a member of the Blackhawks' American Hockey League team alleged he was sexually assaulted by Aldrich on May 8 or 9, 2010. The player, referred to as John Doe during the investigation finding's announcement on Tuesday, was recalled to the Blackhawks as a possible fill-in player for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sometime between May 12-19, 2010, John Doe shared "very limited" information about the encounter with a Blackhawks skating coach. On May 23, senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac was told of the alleged encounter, and MacIsaac told mental skills coach and team counselor Jim Gary to speak to John Doe.

Also on May 23, within an hour of Chicago defeating the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final to advance to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, McDonough, then-senior vice president Jay Blunk, Bowman, MacIsaac, then-assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and then-coach Joel Quenneville met with Gary to discuss what was learned about Aldrich and John Doe, according to the report.

"One witness recalled that during the meeting, Mr. McDonough and coach Quenneville made comments about the challenge of getting to the Stanley Cup Final and a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs," Schar said. "What is clear is, after being informed of Aldrich's alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with the player, no action was taken for three weeks."

On June 14, 2010, according to the investigation, McDonough reported the information to the Blackhawks director of human resources and Aldrich was given the option to undergo an investigation into the allegations with John Doe or resign. He chose to resign.

McDonough was fired April 27, 2020. Cheveldayoff has been GM of the Winnipeg Jets since June 8, 2011. Quenneville, who coached the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles, was fired Nov. 6, 2018 and was named Florida Panthers coach on April 8, 2019.

"I have shared everything I know about this matter as part of my participation in Jenner & Block's investigation. That is reflected in today's investigation report," Cheveldayoff said in a statement released by the Jets. "Further, I look forward to my discussion with Commissioner Bettman at the soonest possible date to continue to cooperate fully with the National Hockey League. I will reserve any further comment until after that conversation has been conducted."

Cheveldayoff and Quenneville previously said they were not aware of the allegations against Aldrich at the time of the complaint.

"At this time, Commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated that he will be meeting with Joel Quenneville to discuss the events highlighted in the Jenner & Block October 2021 report. Accordingly, we have no comment," the Panthers said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Commissioner Bettman said he plans "to arrange personal meetings in the near future with both individuals to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the report. I will reserve judgment on (the) next steps, if any, with respect to them."

Quenneville said Wednesday he is scheduled to meet with Commissioner Bettman on Thursday, likely in New York.

"I look forward to continuing to contribute to the process," Quenneville said. "I respect you all doing your jobs and your questions as well here, but I won't comment any further until the appropriate time after I meet with the Commissioner."

Commissioner Bettman said should Bowman, McDonough, Blunk and MacIsaac wish to reenter the NHL in some capacity, "I will require a meeting with me in advance of their accepting any NHL club-related position in order to determine the appropriate conditions under which such new employment might take place."

Defenseman Duncan Keith, who played 16 seasons for the Blackhawks from 2005-2021 before being traded the Edmonton Oilers on July 12, said the first time he heard about about the issues with Aldrich is when John Doe filed his suit.  

"It took a lot for him to speak out and bring this forward. That took a lot of courage," Keith said Wednesday. "My thoughts immediately go to him, and what he had to endure at such a young age in his career. I feel terrible about that. 

"It's still not easy to see what's happened, yesterday, regardless of everything. My memories of being there in Chicago, especially at that time, for me the players in that room, it was a special group, a championship team. In that's sense, it's too bad that happened. But the bigger, more important issue is the person who was affected by that." independent correspondent Alain Poupart contributed to this report

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