Bowman says he's taking sexual assault investigation against Blackhawks seriously
Not surprisingly, Blackhawks GM and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman didn't answer any direct questions Thursday about the two pending lawsuits against the organization involving former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich.
Bowman spent the first 5½ minutes of the 30-minute Q&A with an opening statement about the allegations, then gave his thoughts on the possible return of Jonathan Toews and the trade of Duncan Keith to the Oilers.
Bowman said the Hawks take "these allegations very seriously" and continued by saying: "It's important for me to say off the top that I do not condone or tolerate harassment or assault of any type. The Blackhawks have engaged an outside legal firm to conduct an independent review of these allegations. And we need to give the experts the necessary time and the latitude to do their job well.
"I understand that many of you will have questions on this topic and there will be time to answer those questions. I'm eager to speak about this in more detail in the future, but for now I have to respect the pending litigation and the independent review that's under way."
Bowman intends to fully cooperate in the investigation, but didn't give his opinion on whether or not he believes the findings should be made public.
One of the lawsuits, brought about by an unidentified Hawks player, is seeking more than $150,000 in damages for Aldrich sexually assaulting him and another player in 2010.
A new, amended lawsuit was filed Thursday, which included more disturbing allegations against Aldrich. Among them, the suit alleges that in or around May 2010:
• The plaintiff attempted to leave Aldrich's apartment but was blocked. Aldrich then grabbed a Cubs bat from the wall and threatened the plaintiff with the "small bat."
• While brandishing the bat, Aldrich threatened the plaintiff by saying he would never play in the NHL again and that he would ruin the plaintiff financially if he did not "engage in nonconsensual sexual activity with Aldrich at that time."
The suit also alleges that the plaintiff was harassed during Blackhawks practices, with players calling him a homophobic slur and asking if couldn't focus because he wanted to perform sexual acts.
According to an earlier report by TSN, skills coach Paul Vincent told then-team president and CEO John McDonough, 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 the request was not granted.
Asked what was said at that meeting, Bowman said: "That's something that's part of the investigation. It wouldn't be right for me to be commenting on that right now."
After leaving the Hawks, Aldrich was convicted in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual 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.
The next week will be an extremely busy one for the Hawks. The NHL draft is Friday (round 1) and Saturday (rounds 2-7) and free agency opens July 28.
It's fair to wonder if the investigation is making it difficult for Bowman to do his job, but the longtime GM said it's business as usual.
"I have a job to do here and that's to build our team as best I can," Bowman said. "That's what I'm focused on. We have a team approach here. The staff is fully engaged and we'll do our best to focus on improving our team. ... We're hard at work."
The Hawks have the 11th overall selection and two second-round picks (Nos. 44 and 62). They have five more selections, although none are in the third round.