Chicago Blackhawks GM steps down following investigation into handling of sexual assault allegation

Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman announced Tuesday that he was stepping down following an independent investigation into the team’s handling of a 2010 sexual assault allegation against a former coach.

Bowman, who was general manager for about 12 years, said in a statement that said his “continued participation would be a distraction” for the team.

He said he was leaving as the organization published the findings of an investigation into sexual assault claims against former video coach Brad Aldrich. An assault is alleged to have occurred in May 2010 as the team was in its first Stanley Cup Finals in 18 years.

Bowman said he was made aware of “potential inappropriate behavior” 11 years ago and reported it to John McDonough, the team’s president and CEO at the time. The organization fired McDonough last year.

“I learned this year that the inappropriate behavior involved a serious allegation of sexual assault. I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action,” Bowman said. “Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so.”

McDonough could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bowman will be replaced by Kyle Davidson, the assistant general manager of hockey administration, NBC Chicago reported.

Bowman also informed USA Hockey on Tuesday that he would be stepping down as 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,” he said in a statement released by USA Hockey.

Stan Bowman, vice president and general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, at the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago on Oct. 6, 2020.NHL Images / NHLI via Getty Images file

According to the 107-page investigation report from the law firm Jenner & Block, Aldrich was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old player brought up from the minor leagues as a backup during the 2010 playoffs. Such prospects, who are used when a team’s roster is exhausted by injuries or other issues, are referred to as “Black Aces.”

An attorney for Aldrich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Jenner & Block investigation was prompted when the player, referred to as John Doe, made the allegation against Aldrich in a lawsuit against the Blackhawks in May.

He alleged that Aldrich invited him to his home around May 9, 2010. The two had dinner, and he was invited afterward to watch a hockey program, he said. According to Doe’s account, Aldrich switched the television to pornography multiple times before telling Doe to touch himself. The report alleges that Aldrich then tried to kiss the player, who punched him in the face.

“John Doe recalled that after he punched Aldrich, Aldrich stood up, grabbed a souvenir Cubs miniature baseball bat that was on either a shelf or window, and told John Doe that John Doe was not going anywhere,” the report said.

The report alleges that Aldrich threatened to ensure that Doe would “never play in the NHL or walk again” if he did not “lay down and act like you enjoy it.”

He is alleged to have then performed oral sex on the player and told him not to say anything about the incident, according to the player’s account detailed in the report. A confidant who spoke to the player said Doe told him about a nonconsensual encounter with Aldrich around that time, in which, Doe stated, he felt more intoxicated than he would have from just drinking and indicated that he may have been drugged, according to the report.

Aldrich, who was 27 at the time, did not deny that a sexual encounter with the player occurred during the 2010 playoff period, but he contended that it was consensual. He said he had previously told Doe and another Black Ace prospect that he was gay and that he had had “what he believed to be flirtatious interactions” with Doe afterward, according to the report.

Aldrich’s recollection of the incident placed it after he and Doe had returned from a bar with a woman, with whom they also had a sexual encounter. He said Doe gave consent ad denied ever threatening the young player, according to the report.

The unidentified woman spoke to the law firm and confirmed that she had met the two men and returned to Aldrich’s apartment, saying that while the three of them had oral sex, she never saw the men engage in any sexual intimacy with each other, according to the report.

She described Aldrich as “aggressive” and said she chose to leave after he scratched her hard enough that she began to bleed, according to the report, which said she “corroborated certain aspects of John Doe’s and Aldrich’s accounts, and differed in certain respects as well.”

Another Black Ace prospect told Jenner & Block that he remembered Aldrich’s telling him that he was gay but could not recall who else was involved in the conversation. He alleged that Aldrich sent him inappropriate text messages, including an explicit photo.

He denied ever having had a sexual encounter with Aldrich, but he told investigators that he did recall Aldrich’s telling prospects that he “could bury us” in the Blackhawks organization and make sure “you could never play,” the report said. Six other witnesses said they heard rumors about Aldrich’s threatening players’ careers after he left the Blackhawks, it said.

Al MacIsaac, who was the senior director of hockey administration in 2010, was made aware of a possible incident between Doe and Aldrich on May 23, 2010, according to the report, which said he alerted the team’s counselor, who spoke to the young player. Doe told the counselor that Aldrich had pressured him to have sex and threatened his career, the report said. The team was not made aware of an assault at the time, it said.

MacIsaac “has been relieved of his duties following an investigation,” NBC Chicago reported. He most recently was the team’s senior vice president of hockey operations.

The allegation was discussed at a meeting of several Blackhawks executives, including McDonough, Bowman and Joel Quenneville, then the team’s head coach, according to the report. Accounts of what was said and decided differ, including whether to launch an investigation and concerns about “team chemistry” during the playoffs, it said.

“What is clear is that, after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with a player, no action was taken for three weeks,” the report said. “One witness recalled that the decision on how to proceed was left in McDonough’s hands and another witness recalled McDonough saying he would speak to John Doe. McDonough did nothing to address the allegations until June 14, when he reported the information to the Director of Human Resources.”

Aldrich remained with the team until mid-June, when he was given the option to resign or stay on during an investigation, according to the report. He chose to resign, taking a separation severance and a $15,000 playoff bonus. The team also allowed him to participate in the annual tradition in which members of the Stanley Cup-winning team take the trophy on a tour of their hometowns.

Aldrich pleaded guilty in 2013 to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor in Houghton, Michigan. He was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years’ probation, the report said.

The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million for the “organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” to the Aldrich allegations.

“The League and the Blackhawks have decided that $1 Million of the fine money 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,” the NHL said Tuesday.

The Blackhawks apologized Tuesday in a statement that said the organization “did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents.”

“What we do off the ice is equally as important as anything we do on it. Our ownership and leadership teams are committed to ensuring that the Blackhawks adhere to the highest ethical, professional, and athletic standards. We will not tolerate behavior that is antithetical to our values from any member of the organization, nor will we accept the type of inaction that allows such issues to continue unchecked,” the team said.

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