Bowman, MacIsaac step down from Chicago Blackhawks amid sexual assault investigation
Blackhawks general manager and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac stepped aside Tuesday after an independent investigation involving former video coach Bradley Aldrich.
Hawks owner and chairman Rocky Wirtz and CEO Danny Wirtz held a virtual press briefing to announce the findings, which were compiled by Jenner & Block LLP. The investigation came about after a former player said his claims of sexual assault by Aldrich were ignored.
"The report is both disturbing and difficult to read," Danny Wirtz said. "It speaks for itself. Rocky and our leadership team reviewed the report and we have had important and difficult conversations about how our organization will move forward."
Bowman was named GM in July 2009 and promoted to president of hockey operations in December 2020. MacIsaac was in his 21st year with the Hawks and sixth in his current role.
Danny Wirtz said that Kyle Davidson, the current vice president of hockey strategy and analytics, will take over as interim general manager as the team looks for a permanent replacement to Bowman.
Danny said he appreciates Bowman's dedication to the team and is confident that if this matter happened today that Bowman would have a much different reaction.
"Stan exhibited extreme professionalism and integrity in cooperating in the investigation, more so than his peers and we cannot overstate the important role Stan played in revisiting that meeting in the report," Danny said. "I believe that if this had happened in 2021, with Stan at the helm, the Stan that I know and we know would have acted differently and would have been a louder voice in that room."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Bowman, MacIsaac and former executive vice president Jay Blunk would have to be cleared to return to a job in the league. He also said he'll be meeting with Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
The league also fined the Hawks $2 million.
"Today's fine represents a direct and necessary response to the failure of the club to follow up and address the 2010 incident in a timely and appropriate manner," Bettman said in a statement.
Bowman -- who also stepped down Tuesday as GM of the 2022 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team -- released a statement saying he was made aware of the allegations and "promptly reported the matter" to then-CEO John McDonough "who committed to handling the matter.
"I learned this year that the inappropriate behavior involved a serious allegation of sexual assault," Bowman said. "I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so."
John Doe, responding to a request for comment from reporter Rick Westhead, said: "Today I am grateful for the accountability from Rocky, Danny Wirtz and the Blackhawks organization. I also want to thank Jenner & Block and specifically Reid Schar for the respect he and they showed me throughout their investigation.
"Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization, I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery."
• • •
Schar, a Partner at Jenner & Block who was hired in late June to independently investigate the allegations, spoke about the findings for approximately 10 minutes.
"Our investigation was independent and it was thorough," Schar said. "The Blackhawks directed us to follow the facts wherever they led and that is exactly what we did. ... We, and we alone, designed and executed the investigation with no limits from the Blackhawks."
Over the four months, Jenner & Block interviewed 139 witnesses, including 14 of the Hawks on the 2009-10 roster and five of the nine Black Aces from the Rockford IceHogs. The player who said he was assaulted was called up during the 2010 playoffs from Rockford to serve as one of those Black Aces.
The firm interviewed John Doe and Aldrich, with their attorneys present. They also interviewed Danny and Rocky Wirtz, Quenneville, Bowman and MacIsaac. Forty-nine boxes of hard-copy records were obtained from the Hawks.
The report was delivered to management Monday. Here is what it uncovered:
On May 8 or 9, 2010 John Doe had a sexual encounter with Aldrich. The two have "widely divergent recollections of the encounter, but both men agreed the encounter occurred," Schar said.
John Doe stated to Jenner & Block that "unequivocally" the encounter was nonconsensual. The report goes into further details of the assault.
Aldrich stated the encounter was "entirely consensual."
John Doe then shared "very limited information" about the encounter to the Hawks' skating coach. Then, on May 23, 2010, MacIsaac was told by a Hawks employee there may have been a sexual encounter involving Aldrich and John Doe. MacIsaac was also told about a sexually explicit text message Aldrich sent to another Black Ace.
MacIsaac then asked mental skills coach Jim Gary to speak to John Doe about the matter. Gary told Jenner & Block he believed Aldrich was pressuring John Doe to "have sex with him" and that if he did not comply Aldrich could "harm John Doe's career."
Later that day -- after the Hawks defeated San Jose in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Final -- McDonough, MacIsaac, Bowman, Gary, Blunk, Cheveldayoff and Quenneville met to discuss the situation.
"Accounts of that meeting vary significantly," Schar said, "and the participants had limited recollection of the details of the meeting."
At a minimum, however:
• The senior leaders were told about the claim of sexual harassment of a player by a coach, including "efforts by the coach to engage in unwelcome sexual activity."
• One witness said 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."
• Another witness recalled the decision on how to proceed was left to McDonough. Another witness recalled McDonough saying "he would speak to John Doe."
• McDonough did nothing to address the allegations until June 14, after the playoffs ended. He then reported the information to the head of human resources. The other senior leaders did nothing.
"As a result," Schar said, "the Blackhawks own sexual harassment policy -- which required investigation of all reports of sexual harassment to be conducted promptly and thoroughly -- was violated."
Because of the non-action Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the Hawks. On June 10, during a celebration of the Stanley Cup championship, Aldrich "made an unwanted sexual advance" toward a 22-year-old Hawks intern. Aldrich was also permitted to participate in championship events and even hosted the Stanley Cup for a day in his hometown. He also received a Stanley Cup ring after departing the team.
After McDonough reported the incident, Aldrich was given the option to undergo an investigation or to resign. He resigned and no investigation was done.
• • •
Aldrich, after working for the USA Hockey Women's National Team and at Notre Dame, was hired in July 2012 by Miami University to be the Director of Hockey Operations. He resigned after two people came forward and alleged assault and "unwanted touching." Aldrich was not charged in either incident.
In March 2013, Aldrich began working as a volunteer hockey coach for a high school team in Michigan. A player from that team told police Aldrich sexually assaulted him. Aldrich admitted to police he committed sexual acts against the player.
In October, Aldrich, was charged with a felony for the assault against the 16-year-old hockey player. He pleaded guilty and was put on the Michigan sex offender registry.
In February 2014, Aldrich was sentenced to 270 days in Houghton County jail.
• • •
Danny Wirtz said there have been "positive changes" made within the organization. Those include "robust policies and trainings" so everyone involved with the team can "demonstrate the culture and values that we demand from all who represent the Blackhawks."
"We talk a lot about hockey culture," Wirtz said. "I believe one of the beautiful parts of our game is the focus on team success over individual achievements and accolades. But that cannot come at the expense of individual safety and well-being.
"It is clear that in 2010, the executives of this organization put team performance above all else. John Doe deserved better from the Blackhawks. And while we believe we have a strong legal defense, I have instructed our lawyers to see if we can reach a fair resolution consistent with the totality of the circumstances."
"The Blackhawks are a very different organization than we were in 2010. And I'm not talking about wins and losses. I am confident that this would not be tolerated in our organization today. We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected at our failures to promptly address these allegations as we became aware of them.
"As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to these individuals who suffered from the misconduct of our former employee.
"We must and will do better."