An internal report commissioned by the team found that its top administrators ignored sexual assaults to keep Blackhawks focused on the 2010 Stanley Cup championship.
An independent investigation commissioned by the Chicago Blackhawks found that several team executives failed to report a 2010 accusation that a player had been sexually assaulted by a video coach.
According to The New York Times, the executives did not report the assault because they were concerned about distracting the team. Consequently, they never launched a thorough investigation, nor did they discipline the video coach, Brad Aldrich.
The New York Times suggests that the team’s inaction had long-lasting—even “devastating”—effects. After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Aldrich purportedly made sexual advances toward an intern during the championship celebration.
Nevertheless, Aldrich was allowed to resign after the 2009-2010 season.
After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich held positions with different college- and high school-level teams. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to having sexual contact with a minor; he was convicted, and is now a registered sex offender in the state of Michigan.
Following the team’s own investigation, the National Hockey League fined the Blackhawks $2 million for its “inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”
The New York Times recalls that the first allegation against the Blackhawks and its video coach went public in May. The former minor league player said that he and a teammate had both been assaulted by Aldrich, but that Blackhawks administrators ignored the complaint.
Aldrich, said the player, had threatened and coerced him into sexual contact. Aldrich reportedly suggested he might hurt the player if he did not comply, or, perhaps, jeopardize his future as a professional athlete.
The investigation, adds the Times, involved interviews with other 100 people.
Investigators found that both Aldrich and the accusing player agreed that sexual contact had occurred in May 2010, but disagreed as to whether it had been consensual.
However, numerous interviewees acknowledged they were told of an “unwelcome” sexual advance by Aldrich toward the player—but none knew of the coercive sexual contact that followed.
No Blackhawk worker or staffer took immediate action, and no report was filed until Aldrich sexually harassed a 22-year-old intern during the Stanley Cup championship celebration. Aldrich was then given the option of resining or enduring an investigation, after which he left his position.
The investigation has since caused a shake-up in the Blackhawks leadership, with several senior-level executives having left the team after the investigator’s report went public.
The Blackhawks have since sent a letter to fans explaining the unfolding investigation and its impact on the team.
“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 Blackhawks wrote. “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.”
“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,” they said.