CHICAGO — The Blackhawks town hall meeting on the United Center on Wednesday was meant to discuss how the team is moving forward following the fallout of the Jenner and Block report.
Instead, the terse comments by the team chairman and his unwillingness to speak about how the team is taking measures to prevent another situation that occurred with Kyle Beach in 2010 is what is being remembered by those who watched in-person and online.
Team chairman Rocky Wirtz angrily dismissed a pair of attempts by reporters Mark Lazerus of The Athletic and Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune to ask how the franchise is taking steps to make sure such a situation doesn’t happen again.
He was part of a three-member panel that included Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz and team president of business operations Jaime Faulkner that was moderated by team color commentator Eddie Olczyk.
The tense exchange began with Lazerus’ question about how the team will empower players moving forward to prevent the situation that occurred with Beach 12 years earlier when, as the Jenner and Block report concluded, allegations of sexual misconduct against then video coach Brad Aldrich were mishandled.
“I think the report speaks for itself. The people that are involved are no longer here. We’re not looking back to 2010, we’re looking forward, and we’re not going to talk about 2010,” is how Wirtz responded.
“I’m not talking about 2010,” Lazerus said.
“I’m not either, and I’m not going to talk about what happened. We’re moving forward, that is my answer. Now what’s your next question?”
“I can pick up to what we are doing today,” then said team CEO Danny Wirtz in what appeared to be an attempt to answer the question, but was once again cut off by Rocky.
“No. That’s none of your business. That’s none of your business,” said Wirtz. “What we’re going to do today is our business. I don’t think it’s any of your business”
“How is it not my business?” asked Lazerus.
“Because I don’t think it’s any of your business,” responded Rocky Wirtz. “You don’t work for the company. If someone in the company asks that question, we’ll answer it, and I think we should get onto the next subject. We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach. We’re not going to talk about anything that happened.”
“Now we’re moving on. What more do I have to say? You want to keep asking the same question to get the same answer?”
Thompson followed up shortly after as he attempted to ask again what the team was trying to do to empower players, but wasn’t allowed to finish.
“I answered it and I told you to get off the subject. We’re not going to bring up the report.”
“We’re not asking about the report,” said Thompson, but was cut off again by Rocky Wirtz.
“I know you’re talking about what the report was talking about, and I told you we’re moving on,” said Wirtz. “I think you’re out of line to ask this line of questions. Why don’t you ask about something else? Why don’t you ask about the GM? Why don’t you do something else? Why do you bring up old business?”
Thompson then followed up with a question on the value of tickets for season ticket holders losing value. Before he could finish, Rocky Wirtz began to speak again.
“Is that a fact? I didn’t realize that you’re in our ticket department,” said Wirtz. “C’mon, let’s talk about all the negative stuff about your paper and what the sports page looks like. Can I do that? And you can’t even get our late scores?”
Then Thompson finished his question, where he asked the panel why attendance is dipping and what season ticket holders can do to maintain ticket value so when they renew a package they can defray some of the costs.
Rocky Wirtz then directed that question to Faulkner, who answered.
Hours after the meeting, Wirtz released a statement, saying in part that “my response to two questions crossed the line. I want to apologize to the fans and those reporters, and I regret that my response overshadowed the great work this organization is doing to move forward.”