Blackhawks’ championship legacy blighted by failures of men who should’ve done better
A cover-up, despicable in its own right, will linger in an alleged sexual predator’s foul wake.
It’s right there, engraved on the Stanley Cup:
Two words that, now, only begin to define the signature period in the history of the Blackhawks. The name of Aldrich — alleged sexual predator — is there with those of 51 others representing the Cup-winning Hawks of 2010. Like cards in the same sordid deck, the 52 names share more than winning, more than blood, sweat and tears and the glorious ending of a 49-year title drought in common.
Fair or not, they’re all part of the same indelibly tarnished legacy.
That legacy belongs to the Cup-winning Hawks of 2013 and 2015, too. Aldrich, the former video coach alleged to have assaulted a player in 2010 — and later a high school player in 2013 — was gone from the organization years before the second and third title runs. But a cover-up, despicable in its own right, lingered in his foul wake.
An independent investigation, the details of which were revealed Tuesday, determined that then-president John McDonough and executives including Al MacIsaac, Jay Blunk, general manager Stan Bowman and assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff — as well as then-star coach Joel Quenneville — all were informed and aware of allegations against Aldrich by a Hawks prospect and did far less than acceptable in response. In some cases, they did nothing at all.
All their names are on the Cup, too.
‘‘It is clear that in 2010, the executives of this organization put team performance above all else,’’ Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz said during a virtual press briefing, after which no questions were taken.
McDonough, the iron-fisted boss, was found to have taken no action for at least three weeks after meeting with the men above to discuss strategy. During that time, the Hawks went from winning the Western Conference finals — with a private meeting beginning less than an hour after the clinching Game 4 — to hoisting the Cup in Philadelphia. On June 10, 2010, one day after the season ended, Aldrich is alleged to have made an unwanted sexual advance toward a Hawks intern. Not until days after that did McDonough meet with the Hawks’ director of human resources.
‘‘As a result,’’ said lead investigator Reid Schar of the firm Jenner & Block, ‘‘the Blackhawks’ own sexual-harassment policy, which required investigation of all reports of sexual harassment to be conducted promptly and thoroughly, was violated.’’
Common sense and common decency were violated, too, easy to see in the public unraveling of a cover-up.
Quenneville — an all-time great now coaching the Panthers — is characterized in the report as having been, like McDonough, against taking any immediate action that might distract the Hawks from their mission to win the Cup. Others, including Bowman, then a first-year GM, come off no less poorly for their reticence and complicity.
After resigning Tuesday, Bowman offered in a careful, scanty statement: ‘‘I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter properly, I regret assuming he would do so.’’
The words of a leader? No. Actions speak louder, and Bowman, Quenneville and the others all should be ashamed of their spineless roles in the tarnishing of a championship legacy. But that’s not enough. The Panthers should part ways with Quenneville if he doesn’t have the integrity to step away on his own. Cheveldayoff, now the GM of the Jets, should be gone with the outgoing mail. And so on.
Where does this leave the Hawks? Organizationally, they’ll work on picking up the pieces. While, incidentally, putting a terrible 2021-22 team on the ice with a perhaps in-over-his-head coach who’s being booed nightly. And with a sellout streak that is no longer. And with a name and logo that is — let’s face it — outdated and offensive to many.
Meanwhile, many members of the 2010 Cup run — current star players included — should consider saying more than they have about what they knew and when they knew it, what they felt they could do about it and what they felt they couldn’t. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.
Even if it’s too late for the Hawks player known as John Doe. And for that intern. And for the high school player in Houghton, Michigan, where Aldrich was able to work in 2013 because of a despicable cover-up.
Most damning of all: Before turning him loose in 2010, the Hawks gave Aldrich a choice. He could undergo an investigation or could resign. Aldrich resigned. And so the Hawks did nothing. That’s what they tried to get away with, anyway, until — a decade later — it was no longer possible.
The first question we ask about people in power who let something like this fester on their watch: What did they know? And the second: How could they fail to do the right thing? The second question stays engraved in our minds forever.