Stan Bowman’s 12-year reign as the Blackhawks’ general manager and hockey operations president is over.
Bowman and right-hand man Al MacIsaac, formerly the two most powerful people in the Hawks’ hockey operations, were forced out Tuesday.
Their departures headline an organizational overhaul enacted after releasing the results of an investigation into the handling of allegations that former video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted a Hawks player during the 2010 Stanley Cup run.
Kyle Davidson, formerly the Hawks’ vice president of hockey strategy and analytics, will take over as interim general manager. The Hawks will begin a search for a permanent replacement, CEO Danny Wirtz said in a Zoom meeting alongside Hawks chairman Rocky Wirtz.
“Rocky and I appreciate Stan’s dedication to the Blackhawks and his many years of work for the team,” Danny Wirtz said. “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.”
Bowman, in his own statement, hardly accepted culpability for his involvement in the Aldrich incident.
“The team needs to focus on its future, and my continued participation would be a distraction,” Bowman said. “I am deeply grateful to the Blackhawks for the chance to manage the team; to the players for their dedication; and to the fans for their tremendous support over the years. It has been an honor.”
Hours later, he resigned as the GM of the U.S. 2022 Olympic men’s hockey team.
With the Hawks, Bowman served as GM during a dynastic period, overseeing all three Cup titles after taking over in 2009. But his legacy will be forever tainted by the event that secretly corrupted his first major triumph and the long-awaited public fallout that ended his tenure this week at its lowest of lows.
The NHL announced Tuesday it has also fined the Hawks $2 million for their handling of the incident, with half of that fine dedicated to Chicago organizations that provide resources for abuse victims.
Wirtz said he told team lawyers to seek settlements in two negligence lawsuits related to Aldrich that were filed against the team earlier this year and that first brought the Aldrich allegations into the public eye.
Susan Loggans, the lawyer representing the former Hawks player — identified as “John Doe” — and pursuing both lawsuits, told the Sun-Times she is also open to settlement discussions but skeptical of the Hawks’ intentions. She called on the team to first withdraw their pending motions to dismiss both cases.
In one lawsuit, Doe — a prospect called up to accompany the team during the 2010 playoffs — alleged Aldrich threatened him with a baseball bat during a supposed video-review meeting before forcibly performing oral sex on him. The investigation confirmed those allegations in great and disturbing details.
“Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade — because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization — I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery,” Doe said Tuesday in his first public statement since the lawsuit’s filing.
“I know I am not the only victim in this world of sexual abuse, and I hope my story can inspire change within the NHL and around the world.”
A team from the Chicago law firm Jenner & Block, led by former U.S. attorney Reid Schar, interviewed 139 witnesses during the four-month investigation.
The investigation determined Bowman, MacIsaac and five other members of the Hawks’ organizational leadership at the time — president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk, assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, coach Joel Quenneville and skills coach James Gary — all discussed the Aldrich situation in a May 23, 2010, meeting immediately following the Hawks’ Western Conference Finals victory.
But no action was taken for three weeks “so as not to disturb team chemistry,” the investigation found. Bowman told investigators that Quenneville said it was “hard for the team to get to where they were, and they could not deal with this issue now,” and that McDonough echoed his sentiment.
Numerous participants told investigators they left the meeting thinking McDonough would handle the situation, but Bowman clarified in his Tuesday statement he now “regret[s] assuming he would do so.”
Aldrich continued his normal coaching duties through the Hawks’ June 9 Stanley Cup championship, lingering around Doe and — following a victory party on June 10 — sexually touching a 22-year-old front office employee in a taxi, the investigation found.
Aldrich also sent a picture of his penis to another Hawks prospect called up during the playoffs and repeatedly harassed but did not physically assault that player, the investigation found.
McDonough finally informed the Hawks’ human resources department about Aldrich’s behavior on June 14, the investigation found, leading to Aldrich’s resignation on June 16. His resignation included a separation agreement but came with a promise the situation wouldn’t be investigated.
McDonough was fired as Hawks president in 2020 for unrelated reasons and Blunk conveniently left the Hawks this summer, but Cheveldayoff is now the Winnipeg Jets’ GM and Quenneville the Florida Panthers’ coach. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement he will meet with Cheveldayoff and Quenneville to discuss their futures in those roles.
The investigation also found active NHL Players’ Association president Donald Fehr was contacted several times about Aldrich’s behavior toward member players but never took action.
After Aldrich left the Blackhawks, lawsuits allege the team provided references that allowed Aldrich to get jobs at Miami (Ohio) University and Houghton (Michigan) High School. In legal filings, the Blackhawks have denied providing those positive references.
A Miami investigation found that Aldrich sexually assaulted a summer hockey camp intern and an undergraduate at the school in 2012. Then in 2013, after leaving Miami, Aldrich allegedly assaulted a 16-year-old at Houghton. Aldrich pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with the minor, now the plaintiff in the other ongoing lawsuit against the Hawks.
The Wirtzes denied knowledge of Aldrich’s assaults until the lawsuits were filed this year, and the investigation found no evidence to the contrary. McDonough has not responded to numerous interview requests by the Sun-Times.
The Hawks sent a letter to fans and other community members Tuesday, extending “profound apologies” to Doe and other affected individuals and stating they “must — and will — do better.”
“Since 2010, we have implemented numerous positive changes throughout our organization, especially over the past year — including more clearly defining organizational structure, alongside the hiring of new personnel who demonstrate our values and bring the right subject matter expertise in the areas of compliance, human resources and mental health and wellbeing,” the letter stated.