Bettman: No punishment for Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz following outburst

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the outburst from Chicago Blackhawks chairperson Rocky Wirtz at a town hall this week was an emotional moment, that no discipline is necessary, and overall the organization is doing the right things.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that there will be no league-issued discipline for Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz following the latter’s outburst at a town hall event earlier this week in response to questions about the team’s recent sexual assault scandal.

Asked at the town hall Wednesday what his Blackhawks are doing to ensure that what happened to Kyle Beach doesn't happen to anyone else, Wirtz angrily berated two reporters, saying he refused to discuss the subject.

“We're not going to talk about Kyle Beach, we're not going to talk about anything that happened,” Wirtz said at one point in the evening. “Now we're moving on, what more do I have to say? Do you want to keep asking the same question, and hear the same answer?"

At another point during the town hall, Wirtz’s son Danny — the Blackhawks’ CEO — tried to step in to speak about the club’s current ongoing work, but was cut off by his father. “No, that's none of your business,” Rocky Wirtz said at the time, pointing in the direction of the reporters. "What we're going to do today is our business, I don't think it's any of your business.”

The chairman apologized via an issued statement later that evening, saying he had “crossed the line.”

“I want to apologize to the fans and those reporters, and I regret that my response overshadowed the great work this organization is doing to move forward,” the statement read. “We have the right leaders and right processes in place to create a safe environment for our employees and players.”

Asked Friday about his thoughts on the incident, commissioner Bettman said the League feels the Blackhawks are taking the necessary steps to address their organizational issues.

"I think what has happened with that franchise because of Kyle Beach, and with Kyle Beach — for which we all agree was horrible and they acknowledge as well — I think this has been very emotional and frustrating and draining for the Blackhawks and Rocky in particular," said Bettman. "And I think as they're trying to focus on the things they need to do organizationally to move forward, I think it was an emotional moment which Rocky promptly, on his own, apologized for. ... They're doing all the things to move forward. They're doing the work. The people who belong to be gone are gone. New people have been brought in. There's training, they're doing things above and beyond what we're doing at the league level. They're putting in a wellness department. They had answers for everything.

“I think this was just, you know, all of us at one time or another have a moment. And this was a moment.”

As to whether there will be any disciplinary action on the League’s part in response, Bettman said there will not be.

“We will continue as we do with all our clubs to hold them accountable, to do the work and make sure they're doing the right things,” he said. “We would like all of our interactions among players, executives, coaches, managers, fans, the media -- we’d like them all to be friendly, cordial, professional. And overwhelmingly they are. But this one was a moment.”

Wirtz’s remarks drew widespread criticism throughout the hockey world, including from Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky who spoke about the outburst during an intermission panel on TNT that evening.

"From every point of view, this is just a horrible scenario, horrible situation what happened to that young man," Gretzky said. "But I'm sitting here thinking, as a parent, you're sitting here going, ‘My son is 18 years old, he's going to maybe be drafted by that team... I want to know my 18-year-old son is going to be protected.'"

Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy — whose Respect Group will begin its mandatory training for all NHL personnel in March, according to Bettman — spoke out about Wirtz’s comments as well.

“This type of behaviour is exactly how people get hurt,” Kennedy tweeted Thursday. “The whole panel including his CEO son (who I believe had some good answers to the question) were frozen in fear to speak up. This is the exact behaviour that needs changing. Period.”

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