On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks released the findings of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault within the team back in 2010. Those findings have led to the dismissal of Stan Bowman, the team’s general manager and president of hockey operations, and vice president of hockey ops Al MacIsaac — the two remaining executives involved with the franchise’s 2010 Stanley Cup team.
But the investigation’s results have also cast a damning light on a few other former Blackhawks staffers who now hold leadership positions with other teams — namely Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Quenneville served as head coach of the Blackhawks in 2010, while Cheveldayoff was assistant general manager under Bowman.
An unidentified ex-Blackhawks player filed a lawsuit last May, alleging that the team’s then-video coach Brad Aldrich had sexually assaulted him and another player during Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup playoff run. As part of the lawsuit, “John Doe” also alleged that several members of the team’s leadership group knew about the assault and elected to cover it up.
After those allegations were made public, both Quenneville and Cheveldayoff denied having any knowledge of the assault until the lawsuit was filed.
“I first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer,” Quenneville said through a statement from the Panthers in July. “I have contacted the Blackhawks organization to let them know I will support and participate in the independent review.”
“I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks," Cheveldayoff said in a statement issued by the Jets in July. "After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement.”
However, the findings of the investigation — led by former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of Jenner & Block LLP — determined that both Quenneville and Cheveldayoff were present in a May 23, 2010 meeting in which the alleged assault was discussed. The details and accounts of that meeting vary.
According to interviews with Bowman and former Blackhawks mental skills coach Jim Gary about the May 23 meeting, both said that Quenneville was concerned with the idea of upsetting team chemistry during the playoff run.
Ultimately, the Blackhawks elected to proceed without action against Aldrich, who was allowed to stay with the team through the end of the season and celebrated its championship alongside players. The day after the Blackhawks lifted the Cup, Aldrich allegedly made an unwanted sexual advance toward an intern. Four days later, the incident with John Doe was reported to the team’s Human Resources department.
After the season concluded and the allegation was reported to HR, Aldrich reportedly was given the option of being investigated or resigning from the team. He elected to resign, then received glowing performance reviews from several members of the organization, including Quenneville.
After departing the Blackhawks, Aldrich worked at Miami University, where in the fall of 2012 he allegedly assaulted two men, a summer hockey camp intern and a Miami undergraduate student. He later worked as a volunteer at Houghton (Mich.) High, where he assaulted a member of the boy’s hockey team.
Although Quenneville and Cheveldayoff no longer work for the Blackhawks, they still hold major leadership positions in the NHL. Quenneville remained with the Blackhawks until he was fired during the 2018-19 season and has been with the Panthers since accepting a head coaching job with the team in April 2019. Meanwhile, Cheveldayoff left Chicago to become GM of the Jets in 2011 and has held that position ever since.
Given the findings of the Blackhawks report, Quenneville and Cheveldayoff may have to face consequences for their inaction and lack of accountability. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that he will meet with both Quenneville and Cheveldayoff to “discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the report” and “will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with them.”
At the very least, it’s now clear that both men lied about what they knew. They said they were unaware of the situation until the lawsuit was presented, but the investigation proved that to be false. Even worse than that, interviews conducted seem to indicate that they prioritized the success and performance of the hockey club over the safety and well-being of players and colleagues.
The broken moral compass of the Blackhawks and those who led the club allowed Aldrich to continue his pattern of damaging behavior. Years later, that lack of action and accountability has caught up with the organization and led to disgraced departures from key enablers. But should Quenneville and Cheveldayoff survive the purge simply because they now work for different teams? The price of inaction shouldn’t be tied to laundry, so it’s hard to justify why those two should be allowed to keep their jobs or be entrusted to lead again, especially when they failed to take any responsibility until backed into a corner.