Wirtz memo: Blackhawks hire firm to investigate sex assault allegations

  • Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz

    Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz

  • National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman

    National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/28/2021 5:35 PM

The Blackhawks have hired an independent firm to investigate the sexual assault allegations against former video coach Brad Aldrich. The news came to light in an internal memo sent Monday by Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz.

The suit, brought by an unidentified Hawks player who said he and another player were assaulted in 2010, is seeking more than $150,000 in damages.

 

"Much has recently been said and written regarding the two lawsuits filed against the organization stemming from alleged events that occurred in 2010," Wirtz wrote. "We want to reiterate to you that we take the allegations described in these lawsuits very seriously. They in no way reflect this organization's culture or values."

Wirtz went on to say the review will be led by former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP. He said the firm has no previous ties to the Hawks and that the organization will make no further comments until the review is over.

The player sent an email to TSN through his attorney Monday morning. The comments came before Wirtz's internal email was first reported by The Athletic.

"Every day is a work in progress," the player wrote. "It comes when I wake up and much worse when trying to fall asleep, especially in light of all the activity now. I have not come to terms with it. It is ongoing. I don't think I will every fully come to terms with it."

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The player also had a message to other players who have been victims: "I would tell them that it's very hard to deal with the pain of coming out with what happened. But the minute you come out, the healing begins. It's very uplifting to know how much support I'm getting from the public and other players."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was repeatedly asked about the situation during Monday's news conference before the Stanley Cup Final began in Tampa. He said the league learned about the allegations "relatively recently."

"The reaction is, whenever you hear allegations like that, are concerning," Bettman said. "My first reaction is tell me the facts. And once we know what the facts are we're in a better position to evaluate what may or may not be need to be done."

Bettman also said "all options are available if there's something that warrants punishment."

The commissioner indicated he doesn't know anything more than what is currently public. He won't jump to any conclusions and asked for patience as the law firm conducts its investigation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bettman would not say if the firm's findings would be made public.

"I think everybody needs to not get ahead of themselves," Bettman said. "These are allegations that relate to a period of time that's quite some time ago and sometimes it takes a little bit of time to piece things together. When we get all the information we will do what is necessary and appropriate."

Aldrich was convicted in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a high school student in 2013. He was sentenced to nine months in prison and five years of probation. A suit filed May 26 by the former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting alleges that inaction by the Hawks enabled Aldrich to go on and assault him.

According to a report by TSN, skills coach Paul Vincent told then-team president and CEO John McDonough, GM Stan Bowman, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac and mental skills coach James Gray about the incident. Vincent, the story said, wanted it reported to police, but that didn't occur.

The Hawks have asked a court to dismiss the cases because they weren't filed within the appropriate time period.

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