Home Sports Blackhawks’ Case Sparks League-Wide Talk About Sexual Abuse

Blackhawks’ Case Sparks League-Wide Talk About Sexual Abuse

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Written by Alexis Barton

As one of the first franchises in the history of the NHL, fans and casual viewers alike understand the storied history of the Chicago Blackhawks. With 6 Stanley Cup championships under their belt, with 3 being in the 21st century, the team has been revered by many for their ability to create a healthy culture within their franchise– or so it appeared that way. In May, there was a lawsuit started by John Doe, a former Blackhawks player who alleged that he was forced to have sexual intercourse with an assistant coach. In October, an internal report from the NHL revealed some initial findings regarding the actions of Blackhawks executive leadership and shortly thereafter, Kyle Beach came forward to distinguish himself as the John Doe. 

In the days following the release of the report, Joel Quenneville, who was the head coach of the Blackhawks during the time of the assault, resigned from his position as the head coach of the Florida Panthers. The report detailed that Quenneville was outspoken in defense of his colleague. The incident happened in May, right in the middle of the playoffs where the Blackhawks were doing incredibly well. Quenneville was worried that if they took any action, it would shift not only attitudes within the team, but possibly shift their performance. The team’s executive leadership took no action against the coach after that meeting, and the Blackhawks went on to win the Stanley Cup the next month. Aldrich, the coach in question, was able to celebrate the victory with the team, and even had his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup, which is perhaps the greatest honor in professional hockey. Aldrich’s name has since been removed from the cup, but the trauma that he induced on Beach has not faded in the slightest. 

In his initial interview sharing that he was the survivor, Kyle Beach shared that it was a relief to finally come forward and he hopes that his actions will inspire other survivors of sexual abuse and assault to come forward, too. Though the game has progressed in a number of ways since 2010, there were and still are strong ideas about masculinity and how it is supposed to be presented by professional athletes. Beach’s courage to come forward about the incident forces him to go against the grain of what “being a man” may look like to some, but it is an important step in seeking justice for all victims of sexual abuse, regardless of their gender. 

The NHL and its commissioner Gary Bettman have been widely criticized for their actions in 2010 as well as their actions in 2021. When they first found out about the misconduct on behalf of Aldrich, they fined the Blackhawks $2 million for their improper reporting of the abuse. Though it sent a message to the rest of the league about the gravity of the situation, it did not carry as much weight as it could. This is especially true when it is compared to the $3 million fine that the league handed to the New Jersey Devils in that same year for circumventing the salary cap and paying a player too much money.

The NHL and the Blackhawks are not alone in their situation, mishandling of sexual abuse and assault has become a prevalent issue within several other professional sports. Now, it’s time for real, positive change. Our eyes are on you, Chicago.