Editor's note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be upsetting or offensive to some readers. If you or someone you know is in need of support, those in Canada can find province-specific centres, crisis lines and services here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references for survivors and their loved ones can be found here.
Chicago Blackhawks general manager and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman "has stepped aside" after the conclusion of an investigation into sexual assault allegations made by two former players against a former assistant coach, and the club's handling of those allegations, CEO Danny Wirtz announced Tuesday.
In Bowman's place, Kyle Davidson, who had served previously as assistant general manager of hockey administration, will take over as interim GM.
Wirtz called the findings of the investigation "disturbing and difficult to read."
Lead investigator Reid Schar of Jenner & Block LLP disclosed the findings of the investigation in a public briefing on Tuesday. The full report filed by Jenner & Block LLP was released following the briefing, and can be read here. [Content warning: The report contains graphic descriptions that some may find upsetting or offensive.]
During Tuesday's briefing, Schar outlined the process through which the investigation was conducted, which included interviewing 139 people -- among them past and current players, executives, coaches, and other employees of the Blackhawks and of AHL affiliate Rockford. Many were interviewed multiple times. Additionally, investigators collected over 100 gigabytes of electronic records from more than 145 individuals as well as 49 boxes of hard copy records. These include emails, documents, roster information, travel documents, phone records, and all available information.
Schar described a meeting that was held on May 23, 2010, not long after the first player -- referred to as John Doe to protect their privacy -- came forward with allegations of sexual assault against then-video coach Brad Aldrich. The meeting, held to discuss the allegations and how to proceed, included several longtime executives. Former team president John McDonough, hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac, former executive vice president Jay Blunk, general manager Stan Bowman, then-head coach Joel Quenneville, and then-assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff were all in attendance.
"What is clear is that ... no action was taken for three weeks," Schar said of his findings surrounding that meeting. During that time, Aldrich continued to work and travel with the team. The Blackhawks were awarded the Stanley Cup on June 9, 2010, and Aldrich was permitted to participate in all Stanley Cup celebrations, which meant he was also in the presence of John Doe.
That off-season, the organization gave Aldrich the option to undergo an investigation or to resign. He chose to resign, and left the team in July 2010.
"It is clear the organization and its executives at that time did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents," the team stated in a letter released immediately following the investigation finding. "We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and the failure to promptly respond. As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to the individuals who suffered from these experiences. We must – and will – do better."
With the resignation of Bowman, as well as the departure of MacIsaac Tuesday, no one who was part of the Blackhawks' executive team at the time of that meeting is still with the organization.
Later Tuesday, Bowman released the following statement:
Following the release of the findings, the NHL announced that the Blackhawks "have been fined $2 million for the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response in the handling of matters" relating to the allegations against Aldrich.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also stated that he plans to arrange "personal meetings in the near future" with Quenneville and Cheveldayoff, "to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report."
Quenneville is currently the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Cheveldayoff is general manager of the Winnipeg Jets.
Bettman added: "I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them.”
Allegations against Aldrich, dating back to May 2010, were brought to light publicly in May 2021 when the Blackhawks were named as defendants in a pair of Cook County lawsuits. The Blackhawks announced in June the launch of the independent investigation to determine the extent of what happened.
“He (John Doe) felt very vindicated," Susan Loggans, the lawyer who represents John Doe told Sportsnet in a statement. "Grateful to the investigation for finding the truth. He hopes it helps other victims find the strength to come forward.”