The Hawks’ 2010 glory: tarnished forever.

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If allegations against current, former Blackhawks brass are true, then heads must roll

Did the Hawks cover up an alleged sexual assault against a player by former video coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title?

SHARE If allegations against current, former Blackhawks brass are true, then heads must roll
SHARE If allegations against current, former Blackhawks brass are true, then heads must roll

One morning in 2010, I sat in the office of then-Penn State football coach Joe Paterno — 83 at the time — and listened to him explain the two reasons he still was getting up at 5 a.m. every day and going to work.

Helping young people was one. Surviving was the other. Deep inside major-college football’s winningest coach at the time stirred the feeling that retirement would hasten his demise.

But the next year brought the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. By the time Paterno tried to get out in front of it, he was far too late. After 61 years of coaching at the school, Paterno was fired in November 2011. Two months later, he was dead.

It was cancer. Those close to him were convinced a broken will contributed, too.

‘‘My name — I have spent my whole life trying to make that name mean something,’’ Paterno said, crying uncontrollably, the day after he was fired, according to biographer Joe Posnanski. ‘‘And now it’s gone.’’

He was right about that. His name was ruined. So were those of Penn State president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley. Careers: over. Reputations: destroyed by cover-up.

There’s always a damn cover-up.

And the public unraveling of a cover-up involves two essential questions. The first: How much did so-and-so know? And, eventually, the second: If so-and-so knew anything at all, how could he fail to do the right thing and allow future victims to be preyed upon? The second question never, ever goes away.

Did the Blackhawks cover up an alleged sexual assault against a player by former video coach Bradley Aldrich during their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title? Did then-president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and mental-skills coach James Gary know all about the assault and fail to do any of the right things? Was knowledge of Aldrich’s nefariousness even more widespread in the organization than that?

If allegations brought in separate lawsuits against the Hawks — one by the former player, another by a former high school student whom Aldrich was convicted in 2013 of assaulting in Michigan — are true, then reputations and careers must fall.

The Hawks have hired Chicago law firm Jenner & Block to conduct an ‘‘independent review’’ of allegations that include the team providing positive references to potential employers after Aldrich left the organization in 2010. One dearly hopes the truth — all of it — will be exposed, but ‘‘independent’’ reviews don’t always turn out to be so independent. Perhaps the NHL eventually will have to get more involved.

‘‘We need to give the experts the necessary time and the latitude to do their job well,’’ Bowman said during a video conference Thursday with reporters. ‘‘I am eager to speak about this in more detail in the future, but for now I have to respect the pending litigation and the independent review that’s underway. I’m not going to be able to make any comments about that at this time. We have to let the process play itself out.’’

The Hawks and the NHL have avoided saying whether the findings of the investigation will be made public, which is a troubling sign. Anything less than transparency would be suspect and an egregious disservice to us all — and especially to all those who have been victimized by sexual assault.

In March, the British newspaper The Guardian ran a series on sexual assault in sports and specifically examined sexual abuse by pedophile coaches. There was a story on South Korean Olympic coach Cho Jae-beom, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing a gold-medal-winning speed skater. Another story examined the sordidness of former Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney, who fled the country — to the United States, eventually — to avoid trial. Another explored the actions of the monstrous Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national-team and Michigan State University doctor who is serving a 60-year sentence for his crimes.

The series didn’t include the Sandusky scandal. It didn’t include the University of Michigan scandal surrounding former athletic doctor Robert Anderson, alleged to have abused athletes at the school for decades. It left out Graham James, the former Canadian junior-hockey coach who was convicted of sexually abusing multiple players who went on to NHL careers.

But present in all those cases mentioned above were varying degrees of cover-up. There’s always a damn cover-up.

And though the names of the abusers are the ones that ring loudest in our memories, many of those who try to keep the cat in the bag — who fail miserably at doing the right thing — end up going down, too, inked with the indelible shame they deserve.

Hours before he was fired, Paterno released a statement in which he said he would retire at the end of the season. Penn State’s board of trustees voted instead to cut ties immediately, rendering the statement moot. Nevertheless, six words from Paterno’s missive live on as the most meaningful and memorable quote he ever gave — an epitaph, of sorts.

‘‘I wish I had done more.’’

In the end, they always do.

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