In May 2010, the Blackhawks, the Chicago hockey franchise once powered by the likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito, Chris Chelios and Denis Savard, were on the cusp of making it to the Stanley Cup finals — this time led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Team executives called a meeting. A player had accused the team’s video coach, Brad Aldrich, of sexual assault.
At the meeting were then team President John McDonough, General Manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and several other team executives. They were all informed of the player’s allegations. At the time, Chicago knew nothing about the meeting or its topic. Now it does, as does the rest of the country.
Bowman, who resigned last month, told the law firm hired to investigate the Hawks’ handling of the allegations that McDonough and Quenneville “made comments about the challenge of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs,” according to a report from the firm, Jenner & Block.
The focus was the playoffs. A championship. A silver trophy. It certainly wasn’t Kyle Beach, the player who would later say he felt “alone and dark,” not only because of what he says Aldrich did to him, but because of the callousness and indifference Hawks management showed in handling what had happened.
The Hawks did nothing for three weeks, sitting on the matter until after they had the Cup on their shelf. Then they allowed Aldrich to quietly resign. Management even permitted Aldrich’s name to be engraved along with the rest of the team on the Cup. Only now, after a $2 million fine from the National Hockey League and mountains of media attention on the scandal, has the team erased Aldrich’s name from the trophy.
Beach was 20 at the time. He told Canada’s The Sports Network Oct. 27 that the Hawks’ decision to let Aldrich stay on the team during the Stanley Cup run made him “sick to my stomach … It made me feel like I didn’t exist. It made me feel like I wasn’t important and … he was in the right and I was wrong.”
Beach is now 31 and plays pro hockey in Germany. After what happened, he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. “And I buried this for 10 years, 11 years,” he told TSN. “And it’s destroyed me from the inside out. And I want everybody to know in the sports world and in the world that you’re not alone. That if these things happen to you, you need to speak up.”
That compassion Beach shows for others is exactly what Hawks management lacked in an ugly, unfathomable way. But it’s not just the Hawks. The people who run professional sports in America — the owners, team presidents, general managers, coaches and commissioners — have very rarely been able to balance the mission of achieving championship glory with the mission of doing the right thing.