The Fallout of the Chicago Blackhawks Scandal

The latest developments on the sexual assault scandal surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks have rocked the NHL, with a number of individuals rightfully punished, and some kept in power, after Kyle Beach’s commendable decision to come out and tell his truth.


Joel Quenneville is one of the people who was fired after the independent report on a sexual assault claim against the Chicago Blackhawks from 2010 was revealed (courtesy of Twitter).

Last Tuesday was a day we all knew would come eventually this season, but when the Jenner & Block independent report on a sexual assault claim against the Chicago Blackhawks from 2010 was revealed, it was more damning than many expected. 

Let’s start at the beginning of the timeline. In early June, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was alerted that an anonymous player, known as John Doe in the suit, claimed he was sexually assaulted by Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff run. The public was made aware of this three weeks later, shortly before the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals began. The investigation began the day before Bettman’s annual press conference on game one. Jenner & Block, a law firm headquartered in Chicago, has been looking into the allegations, interviewing 139 witnesses over the last four months. The reports were released in their entirety on Tuesday.

John Doe revealed himself on Wednesday night as former first-round pick Kyle Beach. Beach was 20 years of age in 2010 when the assault occurred, a member of the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, and called up to the Blackhawks to travel with the team for the playoffs. Beach revealed his identity for the first time in a heart-wrenching, must-watch interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead.

Beach went to Aldrich’s apartment on either May 8 or 9, in the middle of Chicago’s second round series against the Vancouver Canucks, which was where and when the assault happened. The details are horrifying and outlined in Jenner & Blocks’ 107 page report. Beach was with the team in a temporary role as a Black Ace, an AHL player who joined the NHL club for the playoff run. Because of this, Aldrich wielded his power, saying that if Beach ever disclosed what happened that night, he would ruin his NHL career. 

However, Beach reached out to skating coach Paul Vincent, who also participated in the investigation. He and Vincent had this conversation sometime between May 12 and May 18 when the team was in San Jose for the Western Conference Finals. The events that occurred between May 21 and May 23 made news, costing three people their jobs. 

Al MacIsaac was Blackhawks senior director of Hockey Operations in 2010. Up until Tuesday, he was Chicago’s vice president of Hockey Operations. According to the report, he had heard a rumor about what happened between Beach and Aldrich and sent mental skills Coach Jim “Doc” Gary to discuss what happened with Beach. In this conversation, Gary determined that the claims were substantial and there needed to be a higher-level discussion about it. It is important to note that Beach said in the interview that Gary blamed Beach for what had occurred, although it was unclear where that conversation falls in the timeline. 

Gary rushed to get back to MacIsaac, who summoned then-general manager, and GM until Tuesday, Stan Bowman, during game four against San Jose. The Blackhawks clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup that day, and after the game, the meeting was held in then-president John McDonagh’s office. The attendees were: Bowman (fired Tuesday), MacIsaac (fired Tuesday), McDonagh (released from team before allegations), Gary (released from team after allegations, before report), Senior VP Jay Blunk (released in conjunction with Gary), Assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg Jets GM, retained after meeting with Bettman) and head coach Joel Quenneville (Florida Panthers head coach, fired Thursday). Everyone there had a different account of exactly what was said, but the synopsis was the same throughout. The decision was made to keep Aldrich on staff and deal with the issue after the playoffs. 

MacIsaac said in the report that he did not believe a crime had been committed at that time. In Bowman’s testimonials, he recalled Quenneville saying that it was hard for the team to get to where they were, and they did not have the time to deal with the situation during the playoffs. Bowman stated that he believed the ball was in McDonagh’s court as his superior after the meeting concluded. 

This meeting was the crux of the fallout after the report. The decision to allow a sexual predator to stay with Beach get his name etched in history and a personal day with the Stanley Cup — spent at a high school might I add — and come back in October to receive his ring is impermissible. Aldrich was let go quietly after the season, given the choice to resign or participate in an internal investigation. He resigned, going on to USA Hockey, Miami Ohio and eventually Houghton High School in Michigan where he assaulted a 16-year-old player. He served jail time for that offense. 

Bowman and MacIsaac “stepped aside” in conjunction with the press conference on Tuesday. The Panthers and the league allowed Quenneville to coach on Wednesday before his meeting with the league Thursday. He walked out of the NHL offices still employed by the Panthers but resigned shortly after. Cheveldayoff’s meeting with Bettman was on Friday, and he was not forced out of his job or punished at all. Bettman said that Cheveldayoff was not part of “senior leadership” as assistant GM and could not “assign to him responsibility for the club’s actions.” 

Bettman continued to defend his decisions in a press conference on Monday. The commissioner said, about allowing Quenneville to coach on Wednesday, “I wanted to make sure that no one, including Coach Quenneville, thought I had pre-judged him.” This comes from a commissioner who multiple times has suspended players pending a hearing. And those players did not admit to independent investigators that they covered up sexual assault. There was no pre-judging Quenneville in this situation, as Jenner & Block had provided all the information the league and the Panthers should have needed.

 Bettman doubled down about Cheveldayoff. “He thought it had been fully resolved to the people he reported to. Kevin was such a minor player in this.” I hope public relations professors across the country use Gary Bettman as an example of what not to do. 

Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz summed up these actions perfectly during the media call on Tuesday. “I believe that one of the beautiful parts of our game is the focus on team success over individual success and accolades. But that cannot come at the expense of an individual’s safety and well-being.”

This has been a horrible week to be a hockey fan. A horrible week for the league. That being said, major props to Kyle Beach for stepping forward and telling his story. He showed bravery that could never be shown on the ice, and he should be commended for it.