CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an “independent review” of 2010 sexual assault allegations that are the basis of a former player’s lawsuit against the team, according to an internal memo CEO Danny Wirtz sent to employees.
The memo, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, comes amid escalating scrutiny of the Hawks’ handling of complaints about former video coach Bradley Aldrich by at least two players in May 2010.
Aldrich was convicted of sexually assaulting a high school hockey player in Michigan in 2013 and was required to register as a sex offender.
When a former Hawks player, identified as “John Doe,” first filed a negligence suit in Cook County Circuit Court on May 7, the team said his allegations “lacked merit.”
An anonymous source told TSN’s Rick Westhead that then-skills coach Paul Vincent allegedly asked Hawks executives in a meeting to report the complaints to Chicago police, but his request was denied.
On May 26, “John Doe 2,” the former high school player, also sued the Hawks for negligence.
In the last week, several former Hawks players and staff said others on the team knew about Aldrich’s alleged assaults in 2010 and that management likely had knowledge as well.
Wirtz addressed the lawsuits Monday morning in an internal memo to staff.
“To our Blackhawks family, much has recently been said and written regarding the two lawsuits filed against the organization stemming from alleged events that occurred in 2010. We want to reiterate to you that we take the allegations described in these lawsuits very seriously. They in no way reflect this organization’s culture or values.”
Wirtz said the Hawks hired a “team of professionals” led by Jenner and Block LLP attorney Reid Schar, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate the allegations.
“Mr. Schar and his firm have significant experience conducting independent investigative reviews, have no previous ties to the Blackhawks organization, and have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead,” Wirtz said in the memo.
The Hawks said they would refrain from further public comment until the independent legal team completes its investigation.
“We appreciate your trust and patience as we continue the review,” Wirtz said, adding that employees could direct any questions to Marcus LeBeouf, vice president and general counsel.
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Blackhawks and Hurricanes players take the ice in an empty arena before the first period on Feb. 2, 2021, at the United Center. The Blackhawks hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an “independent review” of 2010 sexual assault allegations that are the basis of a former player’s lawsuit against the team. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)