Last month, two separate lawsuits were filed against the Chicago Blackhawks over accusations that they covered up sexual assaults by former video coach Brad Aldrich. The first lawsuit is from a former player, who says that Aldrich sexually assaulted him and another player and that the team ignored his complaints. The second lawsuit is from a former high school hockey player, who says that Aldrich assaulted him when he was 16; he’s suing the team over providing Aldrich with positive references and not reporting his past conduct. Many troubling details of the Blackhawks’ handling of that situation have emerged since then, particularly through the reporting of Rick Westhead at TSN and Mark Lazerus, Katie Strang, and Scott Powers at The Athletic. And that’s now raising major questions not just for that team, but for the NHL.
The latest development on this case comes from a Westhead story TSN published Saturday. That story has the confirmation from a second former coach in 2010 (associate coach John Torchetti) of then-skills coach Paul Vincent’s previous account of taking these allegations to Blackhawks’ brass (team president John McDonough, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, general manager Stan Bowman, and team sports psychologist James Gary), asking them to go to the police, and being told no. Here’s part of what Westhead wrote:
John Torchetti, who was an associate coach with the Blackhawks from 2007 to 2010, said that he remembers then-Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent telling him about what the players had confided in him, and what had happened after Vincent brought those allegations to management.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when Paul told me what the players had said to him,” Torchetti said in an interview with TSN on Friday. “We talked about it and he said, with the players’ permission, he had to go and take this to management to be dealt with. I remember after the meeting, Paul told me all the brass were in there and that they had said no to going to the police.”
…“It’s so upsetting, it’s so glaring, because of what this guy was able to do after he left the Blackhawks,” Torchetti said. “You have to know what kind of guy Paul Vincent is. This guy is loyal to a fault, the most loyal guy you are going to meet in the game. His background helps explain why he gets so upset about issues like abuse.”
Vincent, 74, was a police officer in Beverly, Mass., from 1972 to 1982. He told TSN that after he and his late wife, Sylvia, had trouble having children, they decided to adopt five children through Catholic charities in the Boston area. Some of those kids came from troubled homes, he said.
“After Paul came forward, he told me he felt so much better that this would be addressed, but then it wasn’t,” Torchetti said. “The guys on that Blackhawks team trusted him. He was like a ‘coach dad’ to them. Paul would be the one who told the other guys on the coaching staff what was going on with players and how we should approach them. I know that must have been very hard for him.”
There was of course already good reason to believe Vincent’s account here, especially in light of other comments like a player on that 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team telling The Athletic “Every guy on the team knew about it” and a former team marketing employee telling Westhead “This was not something that only a few people knew about. The entire training staff, a lot of people knew…This was an open secret.” But Torchetti’s account here is quite important; it’s a second named source confirming Vincent’s account of going to those executives with this, and confirming that Vincent later told him that management team said no to going to the police. Torchetti wasn’t in that meeting, so he can’t confirm the exact details there, but it’s big that he’s confirming that Vincent’s recent account matches with his recollections of what Vincent said at the time. And that meeting itself is extremely important, as that indicates that the top Blackhawks’ decision-makers (both on the hockey side and on the business side) were informed of this, were asked to go to the police, chose not to, and chose to still give Aldrich a good reference moving forward and not report him to coaching organizations.
And at this point, the lack of response from the NHL is extremely concerning. Here’s the extent of their public-facing response to date, from the above-linked Athletic article published Friday:
Asked whether the NHL is investigating the allegations against the Blackhawks, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic via email: “We have been in contact with the Club regarding the matter but there is no ongoing investigation. We do not have any further comment at this time.”
Daly did not respond when asked in a follow-up email what would prompt an investigation into the matter.
It’s hard to envision that this isn’t worth an investigation by the league at this point. At the very least, something needs to be done to ensure that this kind of alleged non-reporting never happens again amongst NHL teams, and that thorough and detailed procedures are put in place for reporting sexual assault both to the league and to the police.
Beyond that, there are countless people from that team still playing large roles with NHL clubs, from Bowman (still the Blackhawks’ GM and president of hockey operations) to MacIsaac (still the Blackhawks’ senior vice president of hockey operations) to Marc Bergevin (then the Blackhawks’ director of player personnel, now the GM of the Stanley Cup-bound Montreal Canadiens; he was not in the specific meeting discussed here, but if this was truly an “open secret” amongst that team’s staffers, there are big questions about what he knew as well, and some of those may come up at the league’s Stanley Cup Final media day tomorrow) to Kevin Cheveldayoff (then the team’s assistant GM, now the GM of the Winnipeg Jets) to Joel Quenneville (then the team’s head coach, now the head coach of the Florida Panthers). And while the NHL may be “in contact” with the Blackhawks behind the scenes, that’s not nearly good enough. The league needs to show some leadership here, and it needs to show clear plans to prevent abuse and non-reporting of abuse going forward.