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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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The Chicago Blackhawks need to reckon with their past mistakes

The+Chicago+Blackhawks+need+to+reckon+with+their+past+mistakes

The Chicago Blackhawks ended the 2009-2010 NHL season by winning the Stanley Cup. At the same time, the team was internally trying to deal with the aftermath of one of their players being sexually assaulted by Brad Aldrich, a team video coach.

The Blackhawks chose to stay silent for fear that they would ruin team chemistry and stop winning.

After ten years, the team has had their time with the Cup, and that player is still dealing with the impacts that being sexually assaulted had on him while Aldrich was able to move on from the team without any repercussions. Three years later, Aldrich was arrested for sexually assaulting a minor. 

It took the filing of two lawsuits earlier this year—one by the former Blackhawks player and one by the high school hockey player that was assaulted—for this to be something that was addressed by the team and the league.

An independent investigation was conducted which revealed just how many people within the Blackhawks organization refused to take action. 

Kyle Beach, who revealed himself to be the player that was sexually assaulted in 2010, is still having to fight for himself. Though the investigation has finished, his lawsuit against the team is ongoing, with the Blackhawks fighting to have it dismissed.

The findings of the investigation have seen many people who were a part of the 2010 Blackhawks losing their jobs, including General Manager Stan Bowman and Vice President of Hockey Operations Al MacIsaac. However, firing them is only one step that needs to be taken.

It’s easy to look at the people who are no longer in their positions and the transfer of power and think that the problem is solved, but the institutional problems still remain. There were many different factors that led to the sexual assault not being reported or taken seriously in 2010, and just because those specific men are gone does not mean that this is not something that could very easily happen again.

Most commonly, it is players being accused of sexual assault, and time and time again the league has shown that they still don’t know how to handle it.

At this point, there is no way for the NHL to go back and change the past. They can’t ignore what has happened. A lot of the problem still lies with everybody who refused to take action in 2010, many of whom are still refusing to take any sort of accountability for their actions.

The coach at the time, Joel Quenneville, who most recently served as the head coach of the Florida Panthers, wanted to wait until after playoffs to deal with firing Aldrich for fear of disrupting team chemistry. When asked about the situation when the lawsuit was filed and the investigation had started, Quenneville stated that he didn’t have any prior knowledge, despite being involved in multiple meetings with management to discuss what to do. 

Quenneville has subsequently left his position with the Panthers, but not before being allowed to coach one last game because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to make sure that he felt he had gotten a fair process. 

It is not unreasonable to say that Quenneville had no right to be coaching during a game the day that the findings of the investigation was released, when the members of the Blackhawks senior management that remained were immediately let go. He was also granted the opportunity to resign from his job after meeting with Bettman, rather than being fired. He was ultimately able to leave the NHL on good terms, something which never should have been allowed.

Fair process was ten years ago when people like Quenneville and everybody else in that front office decided that winning the Stanley Cup was more valuable than the safety and wellbeing of players like Kyle Beach.

Jonathan Toews, who was the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and who still holds the captaincy for the team now, also denied knowing about what happened to Beach. Despite the fact that multiple people who were on the team at the time, including Beach himself, stated that there was no way that everybody didn’t know, Toews maintained his claim of ignorance. 

After the assault, Kyle Beach and another Blackhawks player that faced sexual harassment from Aldrich were faced with nothing but homophobia from their teammates on the Blackhawks and their minor league affiliates in the years following. For Toews to not know what happened when he is the one supposedly leading the team is at best a blatant lie and at worst shows that he is a bad captain and should never have been placed in a position of leadership.

When interviewed in the wake of the firing of Bowman and MacIsaac, Toews and Patrick Kane, the only other player remaining on the Blackhawks from that 2010 team, both took it as an opportunity to talk about all the great things that the two had done for them. Most of their energy was spent praising the good deeds of Bowman and MacIsaac, and the hardships that Beach faced from both management and other players on the team was ignored.

Both have since gone back on what they said and attempted to rectify the situation by saying that they should’ve thought of Beach first, but this is coming too late. The only reason their statements have changed is because they saw the backlash they were getting and needed to maintain a good public image.

Their original statements were their true feelings on the matter and they shouldn’t be ignored.

Both have since said that they hope that they hope they can help make sure something like what happened to Beach doesn’t happen again. These platitudes are nice, but time will only tell if what they were saying was true.

Kyle Beach was 20 years old when he was assaulted by Aldrich. He was told that if he ever came forward with what happened to him that his career would be over and he would never make it to the NHL. 

He never came forward before now, and yet he still never made it to the NHL. 

Aldrich was able to move on from the Blackhawks to work with organizations like USA Hockey, Notre Dame and Miami University. 

He was able to go on and sexually assault countless more people: a Chicago Blackhawks intern during celebrations for the Stanley Cup, an undergraduate student and a summer hockey camp intern at Miami University, a high school hockey player in Michigan. He’s now a registered sex offender in the state of Michigan.

Brad Aldrich got his name on the Stanley Cup while Kyle Beach was tossed to the side in favor of winning. After remaining there for ten years, Aldrich’s name has been covered with X’s on the Cup, but it comes as too little too late.

Going forward, the NHL needs to reexamine its values. 

Protecting players like Kyle Beach has to be the number one priority. Winning, even if it is winning the Stanley Cup, should never be valued over the wellbeing of a player in the wake of sexual assault. If that is something that the league can’t realize, then they should be shutting doors and never playing another game.

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