- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Chicago Blackhawks players were briefed by team management Wednesday after an investigation into a sexual abuse case led to president of hockey operations Stan Bowman resigning one day earlier.
Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz spoke with the team.
“The overriding message was that ‘the organization is here for you,'” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’re going to do everything we can to move forward here.”
Forward Alex DeBrincat said after hearing from management that the team can “not move on from it but learn from it, and make sure that doesn’t happen again as an organization.”
An investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block, commissioned by the Blackhawks, concluded that “nothing was done” by senior leaders in Blackhawks’ coaching and management in 2010 to take action against former video coach Brad Aldrich, who faced allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct with a player.
The NHL fined the franchise $2 million for the “organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” to the incident.
Bowman took over as general manager of the Blackhawks in 2009 and built three Stanley Cup-winning rosters, including one in 2010 when the sexual assault allegations were brought to the team’s attention. He was promoted to president of hockey operations in 2020 while maintaining his GM duties.
He “stepped aside” in Chicago on Tuesday as the report was released to the public, and subsequently stepped down as general manager of the U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team.
“It’s probably a change that needed to happen,” DeBrincat said about Bowman. “I understand why the Blackhawks and him had to part ways. I get it. My time with Stan … he’s been nothing but great to me. But I understand the reasoning. With everything that happened, it’s probably a good thing that we parted ways.”
Colliton said it was a tough day for him personally with the departure of Bowman, who brought him to the organization through AHL Rockford and made him head coach of the Blackhawks in 2018.
“He’s been a great mentor for me. Someone to learn from. He’s got so much experience. It’s hard to see … I feel bad for him, obviously,” Colliton said. “What’s in the report was tough to read. As an organization, we don’t stand for that. I can say the Stan that I know, that’s not his values. So it’s hard to separate the two. Personally, I feel for him, while also understanding that in hockey culture, we have to make sure we do the right things.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy indicated that the culture of the team has changed for the better over the years.
“It was a very sad day to see that release and to hear those stories. Your heart goes out to the victims. It’s a very serious thing, that’s very sad and tragic that happened,” said Murphy, who joined the Blackhawks in 2017. “As present players, we’re very lucky with the state of the organization the last few years. The core values of this organization and this culture are first class. It’s very tragic to see that happened in the past.”
Murphy said the players will try to return their focus to the ice, where the Blackhawks are off to an 0-5-1 start following a promising offseason. They host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
“Once you show up for the game, you try to flip a switch and get into the zone. Make sure we’re aware of the job we have at hand,” he said.
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