The Stanley Cup Final is set to begin, but the Hawks' sexual assault lawsuit is the biggest story in hockey.
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Mariners 3, Sox 2
Sox. 7, Mariners 5
Dodgers 7, Cubs 1
Sun 74, Sky 58
Twins at Sox (7:10, NBSCH)
Cubs at Brewers (7:10, Marquee)
The shadow lengthens
The Hawks can no longer hope this just goes away.
The approach may have worked for the past 11 years, but the alleged sexual assaults of two unidentified players on the 2010 Stanley Cup team — and leadership's reported inaction — has become hockey's biggest story as the Stanley Cup Final begins tonight.
Doubt that claim? The biggest headline out of Tampa on Sunday was Montreal GM Marc Bergevin denying any knowledge of the situation, which happened when he was the Blackhawks' director of player personnel.
Bergevin's ignorance seems unlikely given that a player on the team told The Athletic on Friday that "every guy on the team knew about it."
But Bergevin isn't the story here, of course.
The story is whether Hawks' brass had a chance to stop an alleged serial sexual predator by taking the case to the police and instead refused.
The story is whether the Hawks have joined a shameful fraternity of sports organizations that could have done the right thing, but didn't.
At this point, you may have noticed that I haven't written at length about this issue since it came to light on May 13. That's when WBEZ reported that one of the former Cup winners was suing the team over the alleged assault.
Truth is, I wasn't sure how.
The first details prompted more questions than answers.
And when the story expanded to include multiple states and teams, I couldn't figure out a way to document all of them in a Chicago sports newsletter that usually aims for brevity over length.
Then came the recent TSN report that a Hawks leadership group consisting of president John McDonough, VP of hockey ops Al MacIsaac, GM Stan Bowman and team psychologist James Gary met in San Jose before Game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference Final.
Paul Vincent, then a skills coach with the team, reportedly told the group about what the players had shared with him.
The account presumably sounded like this.
"The players allegedly told Vincent that on separate occasions Aldrich had gotten them drunk in his apartment, watched pornography, and then tried to perform oral sex on them. After the players shared their stories with Vincent, the then-Blackhawks skills coach asked Gary, the team’s sports psychologist, to follow up with the players, the person said.
"According to the former Blackhawks player’s lawsuit, Gary allegedly convinced at least one of the former players 'that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what had happened, [and had] made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur.'”
Vincent asked that incidents be reported to the police.
But leadership allegedly declined.
Aldrich, meanwhile, kept his job as video coordinator through the rest of the playoff run, got a spot in the championship parade and his name on the Stanley Cup before leaving the team that summer.
If that report is true, the fulcrum of the story is right there in the open.
The Hawks had a chance to hold Aldrich accountable and bring the case into the legal system where it belonged. They instead chose not to interrupt the team's run to its first Cup since 1961.
The action wasn't without further consequence. Aldrich went on to take a position with Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and then as a volunteer coach with a high school hockey team in northern Michigan. One parent told TSN over the weekend that she had immediate concerns over Aldrich's behavior which included having underage players over to his apartment.
In October 2013, he was convicted of criminal sexual conduct after an incident with a 17-year-old player. Aldrich, who was 31 at the time, was sentenced to nine months in prison, five years of probation and is a registered sexual offender in Michigan. The victim in this instance has brought a second lawsuit against the Hawks, charging that the organization provided Aldrich a positive reference letter.
Does any of that happen if the Hawks make the right call a few years earlier?
It seems unlikely.
“That doesn’t bother me, that they let him take pictures with the Cup,” a player from the 2010 team told The Athletic. “What bothers me is they fired him, but they didn’t take it to the cops. … They let him get a job with a U-18 team. They let him go work with minors. They let this happen.”
The Hawks haven't offered any specific comment yet, citing pending litigation. The team filed for the dismissal of both lawsuits on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired in early 2020.
The NHL, meanwhile, says they've been in contact with a team but have yet to open an investigation.
What more do they need?
The story isn't going away. Not with some of the best reporters in the city, not to mention the entire country of Canada, on the case.
And not with members of that team willing to put their names on comments about the story. Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel as well as Torchetti have made public comments so far.
Whatever inconvenience or embarrassment leadership might have thought they were saving the organization 11 years ago has grown into something much worse.
The Blackhawks are facing a public reckoning.
Over the past few weeks, I've done some thinking about how this affects my Hawks fandom. I've invested so much of my time, money and identity over the years following the team.
I always want them to win, but understand there will be years when they won't.
I'd like them to stop raising ticket prices and do everything with their fans' best interests in mind first, but still stick around when they don't.
But expecting that the team does the right moral thing when two members of their own say they've been harmed?
Making sure the rest of the public, particularly minors, aren't in danger?
Both should be non-negotiables and I'd like to know why some members of the organization allegedly didn't think they were.
I don't think I'm alone, either.
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News and results
Dodgers 7, Cubs 1: West Coast whiffs
The Cubs followed Thursday's combined no-hitter with a weekend to flush at Chavez Ravine. The lineup scored five total runs over the three losses and struck out a combined 45 times.
- Today in Cubs injury news: Anthony Rizzo left Sunday's game with back tightness. His availability this week remains unclear.
- The three-game skid comes at a bad time. Milwaukee's current five-game winning streak allowed the Brewers to quickly open up a three-game lead in the NL Central.
Next: Kyle Hendricks (10-4, 3.84) tries to cut back into the Brewers' lead as the two teams start a three-game set tonight in Milwaukee. Freddy Peralta (7-2, 2.11) get the ball for the Brewers.
Zack Collins turned in four RBI and Yermin Mercedes drove in three to avoid a weekend sweep with a win in Sunday's seven-inning nightcap. The Sox have lost seven of their last nine, but still hold a 2.5-game lead over Cleveland. (The Tigers, Twins and Royals are all 11.5 games out.)
- Former Sox pitcher Hector Santiago became the first pitcher to be ejected under the foreign substance rules in the day's first game (a continuation of Saturday's suspended contest). "Once they take it back and check it, it's just sweat and rosin," Santiago told reporters.
- Jose Abreu left the first game after being hit in the knee with a pitch, but the Sox got some good news. X-rays were negative.
Next: Lucas Giolito (5-5, 3.80) starts the four-game Twins series against Kenta Maeda (3-2, 4.85). The Sox are 5-1 against Minnesota this year with a +27 run differential in the six games.
Sun 74, Sky 58: Winning streak over
The Sky shot just 33 percent from the field as their seven-game winning streak — which included two wins over this same Sun team — came to an end.
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