Many involved in the Blackhawks scandal are trying to save themselves — and it’s not pretty
Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Kevin Cheveldayoff and Gary Bettman all spreading the blame.
The Blackhawks scandal has created a self-preservation campaign of epic proportions. Lots of people are scurrying to jump off the ship of accountability, their life jackets strapped on and their eyes peeled for the dorsal fins of subpoenas.
Statements have been made, quotes delivered and explanations offered about the Hawks’ horrendous treatment of former prospect Kyle Beach, but allow me to whittle down all the words to a few phrases that sum up their intended meaning:
“This is what I get for counting on other people …”
“Imagine my surprise …’’
“What I really meant to say was …”
Former general manager Stan Bowman, former coach Joel Quenneville, former assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are just some of the people who have offered variations on those themes. What they would really like you to know is that they didn’t know nothin’ about video coach Brad Aldrich’s alleged sexual assault of a 20-year-old Beach in 2010.
Take the recent comments of Cheveldayoff, who is now Winnipeg’s general manager. He, along with then-Hawks team president John McDonough, then-vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, then-executive vice president Jay Blunk, then-mental skills coach James Gary, Bowman and Quenneville, took part in a meeting on May 23, 2010, to discuss the Aldrich matter.
“What I heard in the room, though again not acceptable, was some allegations that in my non-legal mind was along the lines of harassment ... and my understanding was it was going to be investigated and dealt with,’’ Cheveldayoff said in a press conference Tuesday. “Had I known that there was any sexual assault involved, I would like to think that it would have risen to a different level.”
His non-legal mind sure sounds like it’s ready to take the bar exam.
In the middle of what has become a resignation tsunami due to the scandal, Cheveldayoff has managed to keep his job. How? Bettman said Monday that Cheveldayoff “was such a minor player in this” and “had no responsibility for” the Hawks’ dismal response to Beach’s allegations.
Try telling that to Beach.
And try getting Bettman to take responsibility for anything to do with the Aldrich situation. He’ll start his who-knew-what-when spin cycle, and your head will hurt.
When Bowman released a statement about his resignation as Hawks GM on Oct. 26, he wanted everyone to know that the seriousness of Beach’s claims was news to him in 2010.
“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, ” said Bowman, who might have added, I was such an innocent back then! Did I mention it was my first year as GM? “I promptly reported the matter to the then-President and CEO 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. (Dear lawyers: I have McDonough’s contact info! Signed, Stan.)’’
According to the team-led investigation into Beach’s allegations, Quenneville suggested in the 2010 meeting that the matter be tabled while the Blackhawks chased a Stanley Cup, which they eventually won. It wasn’t until three weeks later that Aldrich resigned as video coach. None of that was mentioned in the statement Quenneville released last week explaining his resignation as coach of the Panthers.
“I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered,’’ he said. “My former team, the Blackhawks, failed Kyle, and I own my share of that. I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take the time to educate myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.’’
There’s not much to reflect on, if the Jenner & Block report is to be believed. Quenneville said no to doing the right thing in favor of winning hockey games. If he needs time to educate himself on what’s wrong with ignoring a victim of sexual assault and allowing a sexual predator to remain employed by a team, then he’s truly a lost cause. Apparently, the way to ensure that “hockey spaces are safe for everyone’’ is to ensure that Quenneville isn’t near them.
Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, although not part of the blame-deflection tour, deserves mention for his initial public response to Bowman’s resignation and his subsequent apology. He called Bowman a “great man” who “did a lot for me personally.” There’s not a hearing aid in the world that could have helped his tone deafness.
“I feel bad about the last time I talked,” Kane said Monday. “Obviously, I put my personal experience with management ahead of the way Kyle was treated by them.
“[I] don’t want to diminish or overshadow anything that Kyle went through with our organization. Listen, it takes incredible courage and pride for him to come forward and deal with what he’s dealt with. We’re all thinking about him.”
Teammate Jonathan Toews made a very similar pivot Wednesday.
Count me among the mass of people who would like to hear from McDonough, who ruled over everything and everyone with an iron fist while he was the team president from 2007-20. But I don’t know how much more deflection I can take.
He’ll probably tell us that “mistakes were made.’’
Right. And a person was hurt.