The Blackhawks attempting to silence the past and Kyle Beach’s case does not mean moving on

Addressing what happened to Kyle Beach in 2010 is a crucial part in making sure today’s Blackhawks players feel safe

Trigger warning: this story contains mentions of sexual assault.

“We’re not looking back at 2010, we’re looking forward.”

“We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach.”

“We’re not going to talk about anything that happened.”

The above was said to reporter Mark Lazerus from The Athletic by Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, when asked what the team is doing to make sure what happened to Kyle Beach doesn’t happen again.

In 2010, Beach was a black ace on the Blackhawks, a minor league player brought onto the NHL squad as an extra skater during Chicago’s playoff run. The Blackhawks ended up winning the Stanley Cup that year, but the truth about Beach being sexually assaulted by former video coach Brad Aldrich got buried under the team’s success.

The people who should have supported Beach, and who should’ve helped him get the truth out, looked the other way.

It took over 11 years for the full story to come out, after an independent investigation by law firm Jenner & Block came to an end and a full report was released in October 2021.

The report states that “two former Blackhawks players claimed in their interviews and publicly in 2021 that, during the 2010 playoffs, ‘everyone’ knew about Aldrich engaging in inappropriate conduct with players.”

On top of this, the organization’s mishandling of Beach’s case led to another victim, who remains anonymous, and multiple alleged victims coming forward.

The Blackhawks organization has been heavily criticized for their mishandling of the situation, only adding fuel to the fire with the quotes from Wirtz at the latest Blackhawks town hall event on Feb. 2.

How can one look forward without looking back? How is it possible to move on from something without processing it first?

In a statement released to the public a few hours after the event, Wirtz apologized about his outburst at Lazerus and Phil Thompson, a Chicago Tribune reporter, who was also irrationally shut down by Wirtz in a similar way.

However, his initial reaction to the question, and his silence on what the organization’s present situation looks like are more telling of how wrong and concerning the present situation appears.

Lazerus asked a fair question: “what are the Blackhawks doing, what have the Blackhawks done,  what will the Blackhawks do to empower a player in a similar situation to make sure that doesn’t happen again?”

It is even more justifiable to ask this knowing it took over 11 years for the full story to come out and for everyone involved to pay the consequences of their actions, to an extent.

The Jenner & Block report was followed by management members involved in the 2010 incident leaving the team. This includes Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, the general manager and senior vice president of hockey operations, respectively.

Aldrich left the Blackhawks in 2010 after the end of the season, but volunteered at a high school in Michigan, where he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old student in 2013. He was sentenced to nine months in prison and was added to the list of sex offenders in the state. Aldrich’s name was also scratched out from the Stanley Cup with a series of “X’s” following the investigation report on the Beach case.

It definitely does not feel like the punishment fits the crime. Both the Blackhawks and the NHL are to blame: the Blackhawks for how they handled the situation and allowed it to stay secret for years, and the NHL for how it responded to the investigation report, with only a $2 million fine. There should’ve stricter punishment, which only shows how much progress the NHL still has to make.

One cannot see how this story unfolded without wondering how much less harm it would’ve caused if it were handled properly.

Instead of hiding the truth and not supporting Beach, what if the management had gone to the police? How would it have unfolded then?

That is all hypothetical; nothing will ever change the past: how the Blackhawks mishandled the case in 2010, and the trauma that will haunt Beach for the rest of his life.

But what could change is the present and the future of the team and its players. What can also be done is making sure nothing of the sort happens again. But that cannot be done by silencing the past and forgetting about it.

Ensuring these players feel safe should be the number one priority of the organization, and that simply cannot be done by staying silent.

People in power have to know they can’t do whatever they want and get away with it, and the players need to know the entire team, management, and staff stand with them, and will support and protect them if need be.

Making the locker room a safe space for players to talk about anything would be a good first step. That can only be done by addressing the Beach case, letting players know that the organization is aware of their wrongdoings, and asking them what they would like to see occur to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But the absolute last thing that should be done is staying quiet.


Graphic by James Fay

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