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 the firm of 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 on July 14, 2009 and had president of hockey operations added to his title on Dec. 16, 2020. He is the first general manager to win the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013 and 2015) in the NHL salary cap era.
Bowman will be 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.
“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 that he was sexually assaulted by Aldrich on May 8 or 9 of 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 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 on April 27, 2020. Cheveldayoff has been GM of the Winnipeg Jets since June 8, 2011. Quenneville, who helped lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles, was fired as coach on Nov. 6, 2018 and was named Florida Panthers coach on April 8, 2019.
Cheveldayoff and Quenneville have previously said they were not aware of the allegations against Aldrich at the time of the complaint.
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.”
In addition to the $2 million fine, 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.”