Content warning: This story contains a lot of discussion of sexual assault.
There was a meeting about it.
On Sunday, May 23, 2010, John McDonough, Al MacIsaac, Stan Bowman, Jay Blink, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and Joel Quenneville got together to hear a report from team counselor Jim Gary. Gary’s report, which Gary believed, was that that video coach Brad Aldrich had pressured Kyle Beach into sex, which is a crime called rape.
Those seven men decided to do nothing. They did nothing that day, or during the Cup finals, or during the summer that followed. They did nothing to protect or restore Beach. They did nothing to prevent Aldrich from victimizing more young people after he left the organization with their recommendation.
Why they did nothing is open-ended. Maybe they did not believe Beach’s account. Maybe the rampant homophobia in the team culture obscured for them the actual violation. Maybe leadership did not want any distractions during their championship run. We know John McDonough did not want any “negative publicity.” Whatever. For some or all of those reasons, they failed to take any action.
Or, put more succinctly, they did nothing Because It’s The Cup™.
The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks put winning the Cup above the very lowest benchmark of moral responsibility, and that’s why they don’t deserve their title. The NHL should vacate the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship and remove the Chicago Blackhawks from the Stanley Cup.
When someone twenty years from now asks why there was no 2010 champion, you can say because the team in Chicago at that time was so monstrously amoral, everyone decided that to put their name on the trophy would be profane. So instead of being reminded of their championship, everyone will be reminded of what our moral obligations are to one another.
Except that won’t happen. The NHL is already circling the wagons. On Friday, Gary Bettman “cleared” then-assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff of responsibility for the events:
“Kevin Cheveldayoff was not a member of the Blackhawks senior leadership team in 2010, and I cannot, therefore, assign to him responsibility for the Club’s actions, or inactions.”
Bettman’s statement is demonstrably wrong. Page five of the report to the Blackhawks by Reid Schar of the law firm Jenner & Block specifically calls Cheveldayoff one of five members of senior management present at the May 23 meeting:
“. . . five members of senior management (then-President John McDonough, [Al] MacIsaac, General Manager Stan Bowman, then-Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, and then-Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff), along with then-head coach Joel Quenneville, and [Jim] Gary. . .”
I bring this up not to contest pedantry with a lawyer but to spotlight how the NHL is already narrowing responsibility for the events. Actually, I shouldn’t be euphemistic here. When I say events, I meant the cover-up of a rape and the facilitation of further rapes by a person in a position of authority that was given to him by those same people covering it up.
On Thursday, Chicago chairman Rocky Wirtz sent a letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame requesting that Brad Aldrich’s name be removed from the Stanley Cup. The letter’s tone is polite moral outrage, but the action it requests is a sad half-measure. Strike this one name. He was bad, unlike the rest of us.
Removing Aldrich’s name alone would just insulate everyone else who is hiding from accountability. It would sanctify their inaction. Removing one name would vindicate Chicago for their “sacrifice,” a word choice by Wirtz that reeks given exactly who was sacrificed so that this team could win their championship, free of distractions.
There’s a deep, festering moral fucking rot in hockey, a hypocrisy that belies its endless spewing bullshit about respect and character. The 2010 champions fed children to a monster because they didn’t want to deal with it. They still don’t want to deal with it. It’s not just them.
Oilers coach Dave Tippett has too many personal relationships with the people involved with the rape cover-up to discuss the rape cover-up. “I don’t have much comment on it,” Tippett told the media on Wednesday. “I have some personal relationships there, so I don’t want to comment too much about it. It was an unfortunate incident [eleven] years ago that, I’m sure, you’d go back and do things differently.”
(To be clear, the things you’d do differently is when not stopping sexual assault and then allowing the assaulter to hurt more people after you give him a glowing job recommendation.)
Blackhawks player Patrick Kane did the same. While Kane stipulated that removing Bowman and MacIsaac was “necessary,” he had to praise Bowman as “a great man who did a lot of things for me personally.”
Kane went on to say he “wish he knew more” and “could have done something to help” [Beach], whom Kane had not yet reached out to. Kane’s statement was transparently self-serving, couching every statement in his supposed (and contested) ignorance, offering himself absolution while also calling Stan Bowman — who put and knowingly kept Aldrich in a position of power — “great” because Bowman did nice things for Kane.
In pro hockey, these transactional relationships exist to excuse people of having any moral backbone. It bores an empathy gap into everyone’s chests just big enough that you can hide a serial rapist inside.
But these are just quotes. In a world with any meaningful consequences, all these words would mean little because action would rule the day. Chicago’s senior leadership would be removed from the authority they abused, and the team would forfeit its 2010 title. The consequences of putting a game above having the slightest shred of human decency would mean that those leaders and that team don’t deserve to hold game’s championship.
But hockey is not a moral universe; it’s a business. They’ve got Gary Bettman in charge, the consummate businessman. And now he’s the ultimate arbiter or responsibility. But Bettman’s job as chairman is just to deliver profits to the board. That’s it. Were he ever to violate his duties in some brief moment of moral clarity, he would be dismissed. Today, Bettman’s job is just to contain the damage: throw Bowman out but keep Cheveldayoff safe. Support crossing out Aldrich’s name, but take it no farther. The NHL needs to get back to making money. It’s grotesque.
You all deserve so much better than the NHL.
If you are having a tough time for any reason, here are some resources:
RAINN hotline: 1-800-656-4673
DC Rape Crisis Center hotline: 202-333-7273
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
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