I Can't Root for the Chicago Blackhawks
Note for next week: I will still have two posts, but they will each be much smaller than normal as a light breather before college basketball season begins.
Monday (Nov. 1) will just be a hub for all the Big Ten previews with links to any you have missed. Thursday (Nov. 4) will only be the Top 25. It’ll be a quick refresh before the last Monday (Nov. 8) Hoopla ahead of the regular season. Thanks for reading.
Just two days before my 10th birthday, I watched Patrick Kane get taken first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks live in Columbus’ Nationwide Arena.
Going into that day, there were two hockey teams I had specifically cared about as a child. The first was the Columbus Blue Jackets, who almost always sucked, and then whichever team Paul Kariya was on after I declared him my favorite player when he was on the Anaheim then-Mighty Ducks.
I think the Kariya love came here, where he was murdered in cold blood on a cheap shot by known dirtbag Scott Stevens before coming back to score in that same game. During the Stanley Cup Final. This will never happen again and shouldn’t happen again – Kariya does not remember this goal or the game that followed it – but my god was it cool at the time.
Anyway, Kane’s selection gave me something substantial to hold onto, and the Blackhawks became my team and has been my favorite hockey team since that day.
These past few months, and specifically how players I have adored for most of my life have spoken the past few days, might change that.
Chicago’s three Stanley Cup wins in 2010, 2013 and 2015 were up there with the pinnacle of my sports fandom. Being from Ohio, I was not used to a sports team winning championships, and each of these victories had such a specific thrill to them.
The 2013 win was the sweetest: two goals in 17 seconds cannot be topped, but 2010 was the first, and was such an unreal moment: An OT win with Patrick Kane sneaking a shot by that only he seemed to know actually went in. I’ll never forget it.
Here’s the thing though: I will also never forget from this point on what was going on behind the scenes in the weeks leading up to this goal. During Chicago’s run to its first Stanley Cup since 1961, video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted a player, a John Doe who was self-identified as Kyle Beach.
Then-general manager Stan Bowman, vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, and team president John McDonough all knew. Then-head coach Joel Quenneville knew. They did nothing but try and hide it.
According to Beach, Mental-skills coach James Gary told Beach that it was his fault that the assault happen. He also said teammates used homophobic slurs shortly after the incident occurred.
In the days following the Stanley Cup win, Aldrich got his name on the Stanley Cup, was involved in the team photos on the ice after Kane’s winner and was at the victory parade in Chicago before he was quietly let go. The assault was never reported. Aldrich, with no record of the assault, got to coach at Miami (Ohio) and at a high school in Houghton, Mich.
While at Houghton, Aldrich pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old player and was sentenced to nine months in jail.
The team I have loved for the majority of my life failed Kyle Beach, and because they were too proud to speak up about something that went wrong within the organization, Aldrich was able to do what he did elsewhere.
It is downright despicable from everyone in that organization who knew and did nothing. Bowman was forced to step down because of this, and that had to be done. Chicago could have been finally turning the page and amending for the very, very awful things that were done during a time were it tried to appear as the NHL’s golden child.
But then, Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane spoke to the media.
“To me, Stan and Al, make any argument you want, they’re not directly complicit in the activities that happened,” Toews said. “It’s not up to me to comment on whether they’d like to deal with it differently or not. I just know them as people and I’ve had a relationship and friendship with them for a long time as being part of the Blackhawks family. People like Al and Stan have made coming to the Blackhawks for players around the league, who come here to play on this team, one of the special places to play hockey. To me, I have a ton of respect for them as people.
“How the situation went down, what the timeline was, what they knew, I can’t really comment on that. It’s obviously a tough day, regardless of mistakes that may have been made, for someone like Stan, who has done so much for the Blackhawks — and Al as well — to lose everything they care about and their livelihoods as well. … I don’t understand how that makes it go away, to just delete them from existence and (say), ‘That’s it, we’ll never hear from them again.’”
And then Kane:
“I knew Stan very well, know him as a great man,” Kane said. “He did a lot for me personally, coming into the league and over the course of my career. I’m sure he would’ve handled things differently nowadays. What happened happened in the past, and I think the organization made the right moves to get the Blackhawks going forward in the right steps and making sure they’re trending forward.”
These have been my two favorite players in the NHL for a long time. They were my heroes as a kid. To say quotes like these are unacceptable would be significantly underselling it.
You can have great experiences with people. You can be friends with people. You can think you know someone. But here’s the thing: those same people can also be shitty, and your good moments do not make a difference in that.
I don’t care if you think Stan Bowman is a “great man,” that he has “done so much” for the team. You absolutely, 100 percent cannot say he was “not directly complicit in the activities that happened,” and Toews should be ashamed of himself for uttering such a disgraceful set of words.
Either say what happened was wrong or don’t fucking say anything. To do PR for Bowman or anyone involved in what happened is embarrassing, an it has permanently damaged my view of players who shaped my view on hockey.
I’m not sure there is a road back for me, at least not for awhile. I know that organizations do bad things in all sports, but every major accomplishment this team has made in the 2010s now reminds me that they cared more about those accomplishments than doing the right thing.
Wins meant more than helping Kyle Beach. Image meant more than stopping someone that everyone in the organization knew sexually assaulted a player. Good memories of a GM that built a powerhouse meant more than the truth that both Kane and Toews had to have known was the truth earlier than yesterday.
Hockey was the first sport I loved, it holds a special place in my heart and the Blackhawks were the most special within it all. But I am not going to do what Kane and Toews did and look past it all just to remember the good times.
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