CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman has “stepped aside,” after an independent investigation determined he and other team executives failed to promptly investigate a former player’s claims he was sexually assaulted by former video coach in 2010.READ MORE: Frank Pietrangelo, Hero Of 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Says He Was Among Those Sexually Abused By Hockey Coach Tom 'Chico' Adrahtas
“We and he ultimately accept that, in his first year as general manager, he made a mistake, alongside our other senior executives at the time, and did not take adequate action in 2010,” team CEO Danny Wirtz announced Tuesday afternoon.
Bowman on Tuesday also resigned as the general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
“In light of what’s happened today, I think it’s in the best interests of USA Hockey for me to step aside,” Bowman said in a statement for USA Hockey. “I’m grateful to have been selected and wish our team the very best in Beijing.”
Also out over the Blackhawks’ handling of the scandal is senior vice president Al MacIsaac.
The NHL also has fined the team $2 million for its mishandling of the scandal. Half of the fine “will be dedicated to fund local organizations in and around the Chicago community that provide counseling and training for, and support and assistance to, survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse,” according to the NHL.
In a statement, Bowman said, “The team needs to focus on its future, and my continued participation would be a distraction. I think too much of this organization to let that happen.”
Bowman also said that the incident happened in his first year as general manager, and when he was informed of the former player’s sexual assault allegations, he informed then-team CEO John McDonough.
“I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action,” Bowman said in the statement. “Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so.”
McDonough was fired by the team in April 2020.
A former Blackhawks player, identified only as “John Doe,” has sued the team for negligence, accusing former video coach Brad Aldrich of sexually assaulting him during the team’s Stanley Cup season in 2010, and the team failed to do anything after he reported the assault.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon following Bowman’s resignation, the former player said he is “grateful for the accountability from Rocky, Danny Wirtz and the Blackhawks organization.”
“I also want to thank Jenner & Block and specifically Reid Schar for the respect he and they showed me throughout their investigation,” John Doe said in a statement provided by his attorney. “Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization, I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery.”
“I know I am not the only victim in this world of sexual abuse, and I hope my story can inspire change within the NHL, and around the world,” he added.
John Doe’s attorney, Susan Loggans, called the team’s handling of the incident “a complete coverup.”
“We saw that from the independent investigator today. It’s that snowball effect of, once you start this denial, how do you stop that?” she said.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Aldrich got a front row seat to the party when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. He got to bring the cup to his hometown, was paid a playoff bonus, and attended the banner-raising ceremony at the United Center.
“They actually let this guy become the hometown hero,” Loggans said.
But according to a comprehensive four-month investigation by an independent law firm, Blackhawks management by then was already well aware of the sexual assault allegations made by a John Doe minor league player called up to Chicago during the 2010 playoffs.
“It is clear that in 2010, the executives of this organization put team performance above all else,” said Blackhawks chief executive officer Dany Wirtz. “John Doe deserves better from the Blackhawks.”
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who conducted the independent investigation of the team’s handling of that former player’s claims after he sued the Blackhawks in May, said their probe determined that both the former player and Aldrich agreed they had a sexual encounter in May of 2010, but while the player insisted it was entirely non-consensual, Aldrich maintains it was entirely consensual.READ MORE: Faced With Multiple Accusations Of Sex Abuse, Former Hockey Coach Tom Adrahtas Says, 'It's Not True'
“John Doe will never be able to forget what happened to him,” Loggans said. “It’s branded him for life.”
Schar said Bowman and other senior executives failed to promptly conduct a thorough investigation after the player told the team’s skating coach of the alleged assault.
According to Schar, his team interviewed 139 people during their four-month probe; including 21 current Blackhawks players, and 14 members of the 2009-2010 team. Investigators also interviewed both Doe and Aldrich, who “have widely divergent recollections” of what happened, but agree they had a sexual encounter in May 2010.
Schar said John Doe told a team skating coach about the encounter about a week after it happened, and on May 23, 2010, a team employee told MacIsaac that there might have been a sexual encounter between the player and Aldrich, and also that Aldrich had sent a sexually explicit message to another player.
MacIsaac directed mental skills coach Jim Gary to speak to Aldrich’s accuser to find out details of the sexual encounter, according to Schar. That player told Schar’s team he provided the full details of the alleged assault to Gary on May 23; and while Gary recalled getting only “much more limited” information from the player, he told investigators he believed the player’s claims, and that Aldrich was pressuring the player into having sex.
Schar said that several Blackhawks executives and coaches held a meeting within an hour of clinching the Western Conference title to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, to talk about the allegations against Aldrich, but no action was taken for three weeks.
TSN also has reported team management denied a request from Gary to contact Chicago Police about the sexual assault claims.
McDonough finally informed the team’s human resources department about the sexual assault claims on June 14, and Aldrich resigned two days later, according to the independent investigation’s report.
“The failure to properly and thoroughly investigate the matter, and the decision to take no action from May 23 to June 14 had consequences,” Schar said.
According to Schar, during that time, not only was Aldrich allowed to continue to work and travel with the team but was allowed to participate in Stanley Cup championship celebrations in the presence of his accuser, and also made an unwanted sexual advance toward a 22-year-old Blackhawks intern.
Wirtz said, in addition to Bowman’s departure, all other team executives involved in the 2010 response to the former player’s allegations will no longer be with the team going forward.
“I believe that if this had happened in 2021 with Stan at the helm, the Stan that I know, and we know would have acted differently and been a louder voice in that room,” Wirtz said. “It is clear that in 2010, the executives of this organization put team performance above all else. John Doe deserves better from the Blackhawks.”
While Schar said Blackhawks executives failed to follow the team’s own sexual harassment policies after the former player accused Aldrich of sexual assault, he said his team at the law firm Jenner & Block found no evidence team owners, including chairman Rocky Wirtz and his son, team CEO Danny Wirtz, were aware of those events at any time before the former player sued the team five months ago.
Danny Wirtz called the report’s findings “both disturbing and difficult to read,” but insisted he and his father were not aware of the sexual assault allegations until the former player sued the team in May 2021.
Wirtz also said, while he believes the team has a strong defense against the former player’s negligence lawsuit, he has instructed the Blackhawks’ lawyers to seek a “fair resolution consistent with the totality of the circumstances.”
“The Blackhawks are a very different organization than we were in 2010, and I’m not talking about wins and losses. I am confident that this would not be tolerated in our organization today. We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who are affected, and our failures to promptly address these allegations as we became aware of them,” Wirtz said.
Aldrich pleaded guilty in 2013 to misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct with a former Michigan high school hockey player, who also has sued the Blackhawks for negligence.
Of the executives and coaches at that June 2010 meeting regarding the allegations against Aldrich, former assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and former head coach Joel Quenneville are the only ones currently employed by the NHL – Cheveldayoff as GM of the Winnipeg Jets, and Quenneville as head coach of the Florida Panthers – and the league plans to meet with them regarding the investigation’s findings.
Blackhawks assistant general manager Kyle Davidson will take over as the team’s interim general manager while the Blackhawks begin a search for a permanent successor to Bowman. The team is mired in an 0-5-1 start to the season, that has seen them set a league record for futility, with the longest stretch of game time without a lead to start a season in NHL history.MORE NEWS: Federal Lawsuit Alleges Cover-Ups Of Decades Of Abuse By Youth Hockey Coach Tom 'Chico' Adrahtas
During Bowman’s 12 years as general manager, Bowman oversaw all three of the team’s Stanley Cup Championship runs in 2010, 2013, and 2015.