Blackhawks image needs to be repaired after Kyle Beach scandal

November 4, 2021
Blackhawks image needs to be repaired after Kyle Beach scandal
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Kenny Copeland was the type of Chicago Blackhawks fan who set Google alerts for team news, and who scrolled to the bottom of each article about every offseason trade rumor.

Now? He has no interest in watching them play.

“I haven’t really been wanting to since the allegations had come out,” the 31-year-old father from Spring Grove, Illinois, told USA TODAY Sports. 

That was May 7, when former Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach – then identified as John Doe – and another John Doe filed a lawsuit against the organization alleging a coverup of sexual abuse.

A subsequent investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block found that hockey operations leaders in May 2010 – just as the Blackhawks were a month away from winning the Stanley Cup – knew then-video coach Brad Aldrich has been accused of sexually assault Beach. Aldrich remained with the team through the championship celebration. 

Copeland attended the championship parade in 2010 and in 2013. (He did not make it to the 2015 party.) 

“Just thinking back to that is kind of tarnished,” he said.

Copeland may not be the only fan who has lost interest in the team. Prior to the investigative report’s release, the Blackhawks’ sellout streak that began in 2008 ended at 535 games. They won their first game of the season Monday, 5-1 against the Ottawa Senators, to move to 1-7-2 on the season, the second-worst record in the league. The announced attendance was 15,946.

“The team’s struggling,” former Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel, who spoke up for Beach in 2010, told USA TODAY Sports. “But look what you got hanging over you right now.” 

Former team president John McDonough left the organization in April 2020, followed by general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac — both of whom resigned on Oct. 26. Joel Quenneville, the coach of those Blackhawks teams, resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Additionally, the Blackhawks were fined $2 million by the NHL.

By comparison, the New Jersey Devils were fined $3 million and lost two draft picks for circumventing the league’s salary cap in 2010.

“It’s an absolute trainwreck, how the Chicago Blackhawks handled this situation. And I don’t think they’ll ever recover from it,” said Theo Fleury, a former NHL player who revealed in his 2009 book “Playing with Fire” that he suffered sexual abuse by former coach Graham James during his childhood. “It’s a stain on that storied franchise. The simple fact that nobody has the courage to step forward and tell the truth? They just keep passing the buck.” 

Said Copeland: “(The Blackhawks) haven’t done enough, in my mind, to bring fans back. They really haven’t changed anything. Jonathan Toews showed that, too.” 

Copeland was referring to comments from Toews, the Blackhawks captain, from last week when he called Bowman and MacIsaac “good people.” 

“His reputation took a hit, which is really saying something in this town, right?” said Brian Hanley, a former Chicago Sun-Times sports reporter who hosts the local ESPN 1000 hockey show on Saturday mornings. “So when you show more empathy for Stan Bowman, seemingly, than you did for Kyle Beach, maybe it speaks to the bubble pro athletes live in today, but that did not go unnoticed for a lot of people who are upset with this and try to figure out how they move forward as a fan.” 

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said it is understandable for Blackhawks fans, and fans of the league in general, to feel horrified and betrayed. 

“Action has been taken – disciplinary – to address the things that were done wrong,” Bettman said. “We’re going to have to be judged as we move forward. But if you take into account all of the factors here, while it’s certainly a horrible picture, we have to move forward best we can, doing the things that are right.”

Although the meeting in which the Aldrich-Beach encounter was revealed to executives and Quenneville took place 11 years ago, Hanley marveled at the apparent memory loss among those involved since the details differed, according to the investigative report.

“If you were in that meeting, you know chapter and verse who said what,” Hanley told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s lying, to call it what it is.” 

Another thing that bothers Hanley is that in April, when the lawsuits were filed, the Blackhawks were adamant the allegations held no merit. 

“How do you go from that to (last) week?” he said. 

Hanley said he is also skeptical about the level to which team owner Rocky Wirtz and his son, CEO Danny Wirtz, knew of the situation. The Jenner & Block report said ownership was never aware of the allegations.

“I don’t know how you can not be aware of the incident,” he said. “I don’t know how you can not be aware of John McDonough’s decision to wait three weeks to report it. And then you hear John McDonough say he doesn’t know or remember why Aldrich was fired. This stuff is all just incredible. It’s flat-out lying. John McDonough ran that organization with an iron fist.” 

The cynic in Hanley says that a nine-game winning streak would change some of the conversation around to the team. 

“A lot of fans would say, ‘Well, it’s too bad what happened, but isn’t the team playing great?’ ” Hanley said.

But another segment of Hawks fans, like Copeland, simply can’t move past what happened.

“They’re more than disappointed. They’re hurt,” Hanley said. “They’re not as proud today certainly as they were a few months ago to call themselves Hawks fans.” 

That sentiment, on top of poor play, leaves a long road ahead for a franchise that recently claimed a dynasty. 

“The Blackhawks have a lot of work to do to get things right,” Hanley said. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.



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Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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