Editor’s note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be upsetting for 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.
In the wake of a bombshell independent investigation, which revealed the Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that a former assistant coach sexually assaulted a player in 2010, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced he plans to arrange personal meetings with Joel Quenneville and Kevin Cheveldayoff, both of whom were with the team when the allegations were first reported, to discuss their roles in the situation.
“With respect to Messrs. Cheveldayoff and Quenneville, who are currently employed by NHL Clubs other than the Blackhawks, I plan to arrange personal meetings in the near future with both individuals to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the Report,” said Bettman in a statement. “I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them.”
The Panthers declined to comment beyond saying that they were aware of Bettman’s plans to meet with Quenneville. In a statement released Tuesday night, Cheveldayoff said he had shared everything he knew about the matter and would not provide further comment until after his conversation with Bettman.
Cheveldayoff was the Blackhawks’ assistant general manager from 2009 to 2011, before he was hired by the Jets, and said in July he “had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. (Brad) Aldrich until asked if (he) was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks,” via a statement issued by the Jets.
Quenneville, who served as head coach of the Blackhawks from 2008 to 2018, said in July that he’d “first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer” in a statement provided by the Panthers to the Associated Press.
However, the findings of the independent investigation into the Blackhawks’ handling of the situation, conducted by Jenner & Block LLP law firm, contradicted the claims made both by Cheveldayoff and Quenneville.
According to the report, which can be read in its entirety here, Cheveldayoff and Quenneville were part of a club meeting to discuss the allegations that then-assistant coach Aldrich had sexually assaulted a player, identified only as John Doe to protect their anonymity.
The meeting took place on May 23, 2010, an hour after the Blackhawks’ playoff win that secured the team’s place in the Stanley Cup Finals. It featured several other prominent executives including former team president John McDonough, hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac, former executive vice president Jay Blunk and then-general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned from his role with the team Tuesday amid the fallout from the investigation.
Accounts of the meeting varied from participant to participant, however they consistently recalled being informed of an incident between Aldrich and John Doe involving an unwelcome sexual advance.
Quenneville was not present for the first portion of the meeting, according to what other participants who were in the meeting said during the investigation, and was called upstairs to join after it had started. Quenneville remembered others in the meeting stating that “an event happened without saying what happened.”
According to Bowman’s recollection of events, after learning of the incident, Quenneville “shook his head and said that it was hard for the team to get to where they were (in the playoffs), and they could not deal with this issue now.”
Quenneville’s recollection was less specific, recalling only that his focus was on winning and the meeting was unexpected, and was unclear whether Aldrich’s name was referenced.
Cheveldayoff, however, did tell investigators he remembered Aldrich’s name coming up, though it is not known if he was mentioned before Quenneville arrived. Cheveldayoff recalled the group “was told that there were allegations that Aldrich was socializing with players outside the arena, Aldrich sent inappropriate texts to players, and Aldrich made unwanted advances on players.”
Bowman’s account of events did not include anyone present explicitly referencing the idea that the matter should be tabled until after the playoffs. Instead, the discussion centred on finding out more details about what happened. Bowman went on to say, per the report, that he asked McDonough what he wanted to do and McDonough responded that Bowman should leave it to McDonough.
In the time following the meeting, 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.
The report also stated that, in Aldrich’s final performance evaluation after he resigned, Quenneville wrote: “Aldrich did a great job for the Coaching staff in preparing us for all of our meetings and coordinating several tasks that we forward his way. Brad has several people relying on him at the same moment and has a way of deflecting and accommodating everyone at once … Congrats on winning the Stanley Cup!”
Concurrent to Bowman’s departure, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz announced on Tuesday no executive involved with 2010 will be with the organization any longer.
“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.”