Blackhawks fined $2million, execs out over sex assault probe
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New York (AFP) – The National Hockey League fined the Chicago Blackhawks $2 million and two senior executives left the franchise on Tuesday after an investigation found the team failed to properly deal with allegations of sexual misconduct made against a former video coach in 2010.
The NHL announced the fine after the publication of an independent report into the allegations, which occurred during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run 11 years ago.
The Blackhawks said on Tuesday general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac have now left the club following publication of the report.
The report was commissioned in June after a lawsuit filed in May by an unnamed former Blackhawks player, identified only as John Doe, who said former video coach Brad Aldrich assaulted him and another player in 2010.
The report detailed how senior club executives discussed the allegations at a meeting on May 23, 2010, but took no action until June 14, so as not to distract from the club's Stanley Cup run. During that window, Aldrich made a sexual advance to an intern at the Blackhawks.
Aldrich subsequently left the Blackhawks at the end of the 2010 season after the allegations came to light, and later went to work as the coach of a high school ice hockey team. In 2014 he was sentenced to nine months in prison after admitting "criminal sexual conduct" with a 16-year-old boy.
"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," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
'Sending a message'
"This response should send a clear message to all NHL clubs and all NHL personnel that inappropriate acts must be addressed in a timely fashion."
The NHL said $1 million of the fine would be used to fund local organisations in Chicago dedicated to helping survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse.
It said the 2010 allegation against Aldrich was described as a sexual assault by some witnesses and consensual by others.
"Unfortunately, as a result of the club's inadequate and delayed follow-up upon learning of these events, as well as the sheer passage of time, it is now difficult, if not impossible, to determine the specifics of the incident with any adequate degree of certainty," the league said.
"Nevertheless, and regardless of the precise nature of the incident itself, it is recognized and must be acknowledged that the respective employment roles of the two involved individuals (Coach and Player) rendered the encounter -- even if it was consensual -- problematic and inappropriate."
The failure of Bowman, MacIsaac and other Blackhawks officials to deal with the issue as soon as they were made aware of it had "real consequences" the league said, noting Aldrich subsequently made an "unwanted sexual advance" to a club intern before eventually leaving the team.
The Blackhawks said in a statement on Tuesday the team "did not live up to our own standards or values" in how it handled the incidents.
"We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and the failure to promptly respond," the club said.
"As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to the individuals who suffered from these experiences. We must -- and will -- do better."
© 2021 AFP