CHICAGO – Its release on Tuesday marked one of the most difficult moments in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise, and it came just after the current team on the ice was finishing practice.
The Jenner and Block investigation into the Blackhawks’ handling of sexual assault allegations against former video coach Bradley Aldrich in 2010 showed the team waited to report them to human resources in May of 2010, choosing to do so in order to focus on their chase for a Stanley Cup championship.
That’s led to the resignation of general manager Stan Bowman along with vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac along with any other executive with the club that was there in 2010. It’s also brought heavy scrutiny on the franchise while also, in the minds of some, tarnishing the run to three championships last decade.
While that’s been discussed heavily the last 24 hours around Chicago and the country, the current Blackhawks’ team on the ice has had to absorb this news while also trying to keep their mind on fixing a difficult start to their own season.
Frankly, that was difficult the last 24 hours.
“That was very sad to see that release and to hear the story,” said defenseman Connor Murphy at the team’s morning skate at the United Center ahead of their game with the Maple Leafs tonight. “Your heart goes out to the victims and it definitely hits you hard because it’s a very serious thing. It’s just very sad and tragic that happened.”
Per Murphy and forward Alex DeBrincat, team management spoke to the group on Wednesday morning in the locker room about the situation moving forward following the release of the report.
“Hearing the stories, it’s obviously pretty disturbing. Obviously, that’s something you never want to hear that goes on but I think going through it yesterday, it’s tough to see people get treated like that,” said DeBrincat. “The team addressed us and I think we can not move on from it, but learn from it and really come together as a team and make sure that doesn’t happen again or as an organization as well.”
Murphy made it clear during his news conference that he believes the culture has been changing for the better since he joined the organization in 2017.
“As present players we’re very lucky with the state of the organization the past few years that personally, I’ve been here to see that the core values of this organization and the culture are first class and I’m definitely proud to be on the Blackhawks with how we’ve been treated and handled since I’ve been here and it’s just very tragic to see that happened in the past,” said Murphy.
Now the team is moving on from part of that past after Bowman departs the organization after the report detailed that he was in a meeting on May 23, 2010 where he along with other members of management were informed of the allegations against Aldrich.
A formal report with the Blackhawks’ human resources department wasn’t filed until June 14, which was a violation of the team’s sexual harassment policy that demanded prompt action when told of an incident.
“It’s a big change. I think probably a change that needed to happen. I understand why the Blackhawks and him had to part ways. I get it,” said DeBrincat of Bowman’s resignation. “My time with Stan, he’s been nothing but great to me. But, like I said, I understand the reasoning and everything that happened, probably a good thing that we parted ways.”
For head coach Jeremy Colliton, who was hired by Bowman to take over for Joel Quenneville in November of 2018, there are plenty of emotions about the general manager’s departure.
“First of all, Stan’s the one who gave me the chance to come to the organization in Rockford, first of all, and then here in Chicago. He’s been a great mentor for me and someone to learn from and obviously he’s got so much experience. So it’s hard to see, I feel bad for him, obviously,” said Colliton. “What’s in the report, it’s tough to read. Tough to….as an organization, obviously, we don’t stand for that. I can say the Stan that I know and that I’ve been dealing with, that’s not his values. So it’s hard to separate the two.
“Personally, I just think that you feel for him while also understanding that hockey culture; we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things and the values that we’re coming to work with every day, they’ve got to be the right ones.”
Kyle Davidson takes over for Bowman on an interim basis as the team continues their season against Toronto tonight. They’re off to their worst start since the 1996-1997 season and have yet to lead in a game while also processing what’s happened the last 24 hours.
“It’s definitely a very significant thing. It’s very serious. It’s not something that’s taken lightly so it’s something that when we’re able to just address it and speak about it as a team and organization, I think that’s good. To be made aware that we all hold each other to acting and living the values that we all set for,” said Murphy. “Once we show up for the game tonight, it will be time to just turn the page and going on the ice and be players and perform the best that we can. It’s something that we’ll move forward from and know that we’re all still very proud to be here.”