Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup glory appears to have come with steep price
The Hawks allegedly did nothing about complaints of sexual assault in 2010. Now it looks as though that failure is coming back to haunt them.
You know what the problem with sexual assault is?
It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
The damage to victims lasts a lifetime, like a tumor that keeps growing or a virus that eats you up from the inside.
Then there’s the damage from the inevitable cover-up, the attempt by higher-ups — be they coaches, managers, parents, heads of churches or organizations — to keep the crime from becoming known.
This part usually doesn’t end well, either. Sometimes the abused plaintiffs are stiffed for lack of evidence and/or the expensive legal maneuvering of the defendants, or they win their court cases and are ‘‘rewarded’’ years later with money, which is something but does little to assuage the wounded soul.
Sometimes the perpetrator of the sexual assault is sent off to prison, which is good. Justice helps, but it cures nothing. Because, as stated earlier, this thing just keeps on giving.
Enter the Blackhawks.
They have a mess on their hands.
According to a lawsuit filed by a former player, known at this point only as ‘‘John Doe,’’ the Hawks had a video coach on staff named Bradley Aldrich, who allegedly sexually assaulted the plaintiff and another player in 2010, just weeks before the team won its first Stanley Cup title in 49 years.
Other players have come forward and said that Aldrich was well-known on the team as a sexual deviant and that the lawsuit, in essence, is justified. Former skills coach Paul Vincent told the Canadian network TSN that he informed the Hawks’ top brass about the alleged assault in a meeting and that nobody did a thing.
My own questioning got a former employee, who doesn’t want to be named, to say of the Hawks’ knowledge of Aldrich’s alleged assaults: ‘‘They all knew. Big-time.’’
So now the lawyers come in like a herd of elephants. The Hawks have the high-billing Chicago firm Jenner & Block doing an ‘‘independent review’’ of the charges, even though the Hawks are paying the bill. If that’s how ‘‘independent’’ works, it’s interesting.
The accusers have their own legal team, of course.
Compounding matters is that the Hawks also are being sued by a man who was sexually assaulted at age 16 by Aldrich in 2013 in Houghton, Michigan. The man claims the Hawks gave Aldrich a glowing performance review upon his leaving the organization, thus sending an alleged pedophile on to further employment governing young men, this time as a volunteer high school coach.
This last bit of hand-washing, giving Aldrich a greased path to somewhere else, is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s habit of quietly sending on pedophile priests to distant parishes, like small-town sheriffs kicking drunks into the next county.
But, see, this stuff doesn’t go away. Not with a kick, not with a shrug, not with a cover-up.
The Hawks might have cleared the runway for their wondrous and magical five-year run to three Cup championships by 2015, but at what cost? Executives John McDonough (now retired), Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac and skills coach James Gary — all of whom allegedly were told of the alleged assaults — might be asking themselves that question this very moment.
The late Joe Paterno, Penn State’s legendary football coach, casually dismissed for years the hideously rampant pedophilia of his top assistant, Jerry Sandusky, at what proved to be a devastating price to him, the school and the victims.
The harm disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar did at Michigan State and as the head physician for USA Gymnastics to hundreds of athletes — including Olympic champions — is mountainous, simply because those in charge looked away.
As punishment, Michigan State alone has been ordered to pay $500 million in damages to victims. Nassar himself got 175 years in prison.
I don’t know if there’s something about Michigan, but famous University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, who died in 2006, is now under attack by many former players who claim he disregarded the decades of sexual assaults then-team doctor Robert E. Anderson perpetrated on his athlete victims. Their charges are backed up by a 240-page report commissioned by the university.
One former Michigan player, Daniel Kwiatkowski, says he was told by Schembechler to ‘‘toughen up’’ and ignore the abuse. Matt Schembechler, one of Bo’s sons, claims that when he told his dad that Anderson had abused him during a physical at age 10, Bo punched him and ‘‘went into a rage, hitting, screaming, spitting.’’
Yeah, you can kick the can down the road, but the can doesn’t go away.
The Hawks are staring at that little beauty right now.