CHICAGO — A law firm working for the Chicago Blackhawks has completed an independent review of a former player’s 2010 sexual misconduct allegations against then-video coach Brad Aldrich as well as the team’s handling of his complaint at the time, the team announced Tuesday.
The results of Chicago-based Jenner & Block’s findings were announced at 1 p.m. Blackhawks owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz and Reid Schar, partner at Jenner & Block, were present.
Wirtz announced that Stan Bowman, the general manager and president of hockey operations, has “stepped aside.” Kyle Davidson will take on the role of interim GM.
The anonymous former player, using the pseudonym “John Doe,” has an ongoing lawsuit against the team alleging negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Aldrich pleaded guilty in 2013 to misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct with a former Houghton (Mich.) High School hockey player who later also sued the Hawks.
The Hawks have filed motions to dismiss both cases.
While announcing the law firm’s findings, Danny Wirtz also apologized to John Doe.
“I am confident this would not be tolerated in our organization today,” he said. “We must and will do better.”
Danny Wirtz called the report “disturbing and difficult to read. It speaks for itself.”
Rocky Wirtz said neither he nor his son knew of the allegations until the lawsuit was filed.
“If we had, we certainly wouldn’t be standing here today,” he said.
Schar said the four-month investigation included interviews with 139 people, including 21 current Hawks players and 14 members of the 2009-10 team. The firm also interviewed both John Doe and Aldrich, with attorneys present, and Schar said they offered different views of the 2010 encounter.
He said the Hawks placed “no limits” on cooperation with the investigation.
Schar said that several Hawks executives and coaches met within an hour of the team’s Stanley Cup-clinching victory in June 2010 to talk about the allegations against Aldrich and that no action was taken for three weeks.
“At a minimum the senior leaders ... were informed of alleged sexual harassment of a player by a coach,” Schar said. “The failure to properly and thoroughly investigate the matter ... had consequences. During that period, Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the team.”
According to the first lawsuit, Aldrich threatened and forcibly touched the Blackhawks player during a dinner and invitation to go over game video at Aldrich’s apartment around May 2010. Then-skills coach Paul Vincent said he informed team executives about the alleged incident as well as another misconduct complaint from another Hawk but the team opted not to report Aldrich to Chicago police.
The lawsuit states the plaintiff began counseling sessions with mental skills coach James Gary but Gary “convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what happened, made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur.” Gary’s attorney, Eric Lifvendahl of L&G Law Group, disputed that account.
The Hawks issued a statement May 12 saying “based on our investigation, we believe the allegations against the organization lack merit and we are confident the team will be absolved of any wrongdoing.”
However, the Hawks announced June 28 that they had hired Jenner & Block to investigate the allegations. On Aug. 2, the team pledged to share the review’s conclusions publicly and “implement changes to address the findings and any shortcomings of our organization.”
Vincent and Brent Sopel, another player on the 2010 championship team, said they had refused to cooperate with the review until the Hawks agreed to make the findings public.©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.