BREAKING: The Chicago Blackhawks Scandal Expands as the Coach of the Top Team in the League Steps Down

(AP Photo/G-Jun Yam, File)

After long years of investigating the sexual assault scandal with the Chicago Blackhawks, reckoning comes fast in the league.

In 2010, the video coach for the Chicago Blackhawks, Brad Aldrich, had been reported to management as having sexually assaulted a young player on the team. Aldrich is said to have pressured the player for sex, with the threat of negatively impacting his career should he decline. Following the episode, the claim is said to have gone up the chain of command with management, but the organization opted to sit on the news, as the team was in the midst of a playoff run, en route to a Stanley Cup win that year. Only following the season was Aldrich confronted, and given the option to resign rather than endure an investigation.

The player went by John Doe, and after years, filed a lawsuit against the team. That sparked a lengthy investigation, the report from which was released earlier this week. On Tuesday, the team held a press conference to announce the report’s findings, also announcing that General Manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac would be leaving the team. They were the remaining executives from that era involved in the report, and their future with the team ended as the report was delivered. Bowman has also stepped down as executive with the USA Hockey organization.

On Wednesday, John Doe came forward — former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach. He explained more of what he went through while a team member, saying Tuesday’s release was the justification he had long looked for. “Just a great feeling of relief, vindication,” Beach told Canada’s TSN sports network regarding the findings. “It was no longer my word against everybody else’s.” Beach is playing professional hockey in Germany.

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One of the lingering questions after Tuesday’s press conference is how this would affect the head coach of the Blackhawks that season, Joel Quenneville. After leaving the team years ago, he returned to coaching after a layoff. He began his third season with the Florida Panthers this month and has been guiding the franchise in a similar fashion, building it into a true contender. Wednesday night, he was behind the bench as the team won, remaining an undefeated 7-0 so far, and leading the league in many other statistics.

Quenneville has long maintained that he was not apprised of the issue involving Beach, stating that his earliest notification of the episode was this summer, when it was announced the investigation was to take place. Tuesday’s release, however, had a strong indication that the coach had to have been in the communication chain that year. Wednesday, it was announced that following the Panthers’ victory over Boston, Quenneville was to fly to New York and meet with league commissioner Gary Bettman.

The men had a reported two-hour conference, and then Thursday evening came the official announcement: As a result of the investigation Quenneville is stepping away from the sport.

Joel Quenneville had a very good chance of one day becoming a Hall of Famer as a head coach, but now it remains to see if this will be a stain too much for the league to bear. The elements of this scandal are reflective of that seen with Penn State, following the revelations of coach Jerry Sandusky engaging in long-term abuses of a similar nature. That ended the career of revered head coach Joe Paterno, and it took the university long years to recover its national prominence.

The Kyle Beach story is also going to be looked at on a league level. Aldrich was permitted to finish out his season, collecting both a salary and Stanley Cup bonuses. By going relatively unpunished, he was then permitted to work in a high school setting, going on to allegedly abuse another youth years later. That episode has generated another lawsuit directed at the Blackhawks organization, and this report will be looked at as a sign of culpability.

The league has levied a fine against the Chicago franchise, and this has many looking critically at the priorities. As a result of the abuse cover up, a $2 million fine has been demanded. There is a strong sense of misplaced priorities, as the NHL about a decade ago, imposed a larger penalty on a team for a salary cap infraction. The New Jersey Devils had to pay $3 million for that payroll violation.

To put this in more perspective, this fine being charged to the Blackhawks will be handled rather quickly. Sean Shapiro reports on the business operations of hockey for The Atlantic, and he details that the team will be able to collect the sum for this punishment in short order. It will take all of one home game.