Blackhawks' Rocky Wirtz angrily criticizes reporters for asking about Beach scandal, later apologizes

Rocky Wirtz, principal owner and chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks got into a tense exchange with two reporters when asked how the team is going to empower players in Kyle Beach's situation in the future.

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 chairman Rocky Wirtz angrily berated reporters who were trying to ask questions about the team's response to the sexual assault scandal that rocked the organization last year, saying that how the team is learning from the past is "none of your business."

The two incidents occurred during a town hall hosted by the Blackhawks where the organization gave an update to fans and media about its direction and search for a new general manager.

In a statement released hours after the event concluded, Wirtz apologized for his behaviour and admitted he "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 reads. "We have the right leaders and right processes in place to create a safe environment for our employees and players."

About halfway through the event, Mark Lazerus, a reporter from The Athletic attempted to ask Wirtz a question about what the Blackhawks are doing to make sure that what happened to Kyle Beach doesn't happen to anyone else.

"I think the report speaks for itself. The people who were involved are no longer here. We're not looking back on 2010, we're looking forward. And we're not going to talk about 2010," Wirtz said, referencing the Jenner & Block report published last fall that highlighted a number of failures made by the Blackhawks after a former player -- Beach -- reported that he was sexually assaulted by then video coach Brad Aldrich during the team's run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

After a brief follow-up from the reporter, Wirtz repeated himself, saying "We're moving forward, that is my answer. Now, what's your next question?"

Wirtz's son Danny, who is the Blackhawks' CEO and was also part of the panel, then spoke up saying "I can pick up to what we are doing today" but he was interrupted by his father, who said, "no, that's none of your business" while pointing out to the crowd.

"What we're going to do today is our business, I don't think it's any of your business," the senior Wirtz said back to the reporter. When asked why, Wirtz responded "Because I don't think it's any of your business. You don't work for the company."

"If someone in the company asks that question, we'll answer it," Wirtz continued. "And I think you should get on to the next subject. We're not going to talk about Kyle Beach, we're not going to talk about anything that happened. 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?"

A few minutes later, Phil Thompson, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, attempted to ask the same question The Athletic reporter asked.

"I told you to get off the subject," Wirtz replied. "We're not going to bring up the report... I told you, we're moving on. I think you're out of line to ask that line of questions. Why don't you ask about something else? Why don't you ask about the GM search? Why don't you do something else? Why do you bring up old business?"

The Tribune reporter then attempted to ask a question about season ticket holders and the ticket resale market, but Wirtz interrupted him before he completed his question.

"I didn't realize you were in our ticket department," Wirtz said. "Come on, come on. Let's talk about all the negative stuff. Do you want to talk about your paper? And what the sports page looks like. Can I do that?"

The Blackhawks were served with two lawsuits in May of 2021 -- one from Beach and another from an unnamed John Doe -- that charged the organization for not taking allegations against Aldrich seriously, which resulted in him being allowed to stay in the community and harm others. In June of 2021, the team commissioned law firm Jenner & Block to do a full investigation and a report was published on Oct. 26. The report -- which was written off after 139 interviews, 100 gigabytes of electronic documents and 49 boxes of paper documents were reviewed -- showed that senior members of the Blackhawks failed to act in a timely manner when presented with allegations that Aldrich had sexually assaulted Beach -- who was a player on the team at the time.

Following the report's publication, general manager Stan Bowman and hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac resigned from their posts while Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville -- who was the Blackhawks coach at the time -- resigned as well.

"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 report's publication. "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."

Wirtz's outburst drew sharp criticism from across the hockey world, including from Wayne Gretzky while speaking on an intermission panel on TNT.

"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.'"

The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million after the report was published. The team settled its lawsuit with Beach in mediation on Dec. 15 for an undisclosed amount.

In the months since the findings of the report were made public, the team has been searching for a new general manager to oversee a new era after Bowman -- who served in the role for more than a decade. On Monday, the team announced that three former players -- Eddie Olczyk, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp -- would help in that search.

Olczyk was the moderator of Wednesday's event and asked some questions to the panel on behalf of fans. One of those questions to Danny Wirtz was about what he is looking for in the next general manager.

"It's clear we need a better-defined plan and a better path forward," the younger Wirtz said. "A lot of the plan for this will be determined by that general manager. We've had a lot of conversation around structure: Do you want to put a president? Do you want to put a GM? And when it came down to it, for me, it's clearly about accountability."

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