Beginning of the end for Blackhawks?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman speaks to the media during the 2019 team convention in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman speaks to the media during the 2019 team convention in Chicago. AP File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/27/2021 8:45 AM

The Blackhawks' future is at a crossroads.

From a sexual harassment lawsuit to the announcement play-by-play man Pat Foley will be leaving after next season to the fact the team is mediocre, one has to wonder how long many fans -- and sponsors -- will support this franchise.

 

The sexual harassment charges were filed May 7 in Cook County by an unidentified player against then-assistant coach Bradley Aldrich. The suit claims Aldrich "turned on porn and began to (touch himself) in front of" the player. It added Aldrich threatened to "physically, financially and emotionally" hurt the player if he "did not engage in sexual activity" with him.

One former player from the 2010 team, in a story Friday in The Athletic said: "Every guy on the team knew about it. Every single guy on the team knew."

According to a report by TSN earlier this month skills coach Paul Vincent told team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac and mental-skills coach James Gray about the incident. Vincent wanted to go to the police, but was deterred.

The Hawks -- according to a lawsuit filed by a person in Houghton, Mich. -- provided positive references for Aldrich after he left the organization. Aldrich was later charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving the student in Michigan in 2013.

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The Hawks, who did not respond to a request for comment Friday, previously provided a brief statement to WBEZ that they are confident they will "be absolved of any wrongdoing."

• • •

The Hawks announced Foley will no longer be the team's play-by-play voice after the 2021-22 season. While perhaps not a shocking decision to some, it is one that will dismantle the best broadcasting duo in the business.

The 66-year-old Foley belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Chicago broadcasters. He has made some uncharacteristic mistakes the past few years, and offended some fans during the season finale after his flippant comment: "Had I been traveling with the team this year, I might have put a bullet in my head."

Foley quickly apologized after scathing comments on social media appeared.

There's no doubt the Hawks are taking a risk by breaking up the sizzling chemistry that exists between Foley and Eddie Olczyk. I've listened to plenty of other broadcast teams across the country and nobody comes close to what Foley and Olczyk provide.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The analysis. The voices. The wise cracks, followed by gut-busting, howling laughter. Where else do you get that?

Nowhere.

Olczyk's contract ends after next season as well.

• • •

As for the team?

Where is Jonathan Toews? We haven't heard from the team's captain in six months. How is he?

How is Patrick Kane? Is this mysterious injury he was dealing with serious?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg with the on-ice product.

Fans who have watched these Stanley Cup playoffs understand the Hawks aren't close to competing for a title.

Their goaltending is average at best. The defense isn't strong enough. The forwards aren't dynamic enough.

Sure, the Hawks took a step forward last season, but with Kane's contract expiring in two years it's imperative that Stan Bowman makes the right moves this off-season to keep that trend going. Otherwise, don't be surprised if Kane departs via free agency.

Add it all up -- the lawsuits, the uncertainty in the TV booth, the mediocrity of the team -- and the Hawks may be right where they were in the early 2000s when nobody cared and nobody showed up.

We're not there yet. But it seems we're awfully close.

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