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On their 10th try Monday night, the Blackhawks finally won a game, beating the Ottawa Senators 5-1. Patrick Kane, who had missed the previous four games because of COVID-19 protocol, scored a hat trick, while Jonathan Toews, the team captain, chipped in with three assists.
What a perfect time to dump both of them. Had the sordid sexual assault of prospect Kyle Beach, brought to light last week, never happened, trading the team's two stars still would make sense.
This team is going absolutely nowhere. They won't come close to making the playoffs. Their 36-year-old coach, Jeremy Colliton, is under fire for the team's poor performance. A streak of 535 consecutive sellouts ended 10 days ago. In the last pre-COVID season of 2019-20, an average of 21,444 fans filled the seats at the United Center. Monday's attendance was 15,946.
Aside from a rebuilding standpoint, the draft choices and prospects that could be accrued in exchange for Kane and Toews would signal that the franchise truly is serious about ridding itself of the toxic stain and misery that was created 11 years ago. There's no other team in professional sports that is so badly in need of a cleansing.
If there was any question about this scenario, Toews, with a sad assist from Kane, clinched the deal last week with his sorry, ignorant, and disgusting response to the Jenner & Block report about the sexual assault of Beach by a member of the team's coaching staff during the Stanley Cup playoffs in May of 2010.
After Toews said, "I wish I could have done something," which he surely could have, he continued, "At the end of the day, I feel a ton for what Kyle went through and what he's dealing with at this point too. I don't know what else to say."
He should have stopped there. Toews claimed that he knew nothing about the assault until preseason training camp the next season. "Not that [the alleged assault] was a joke, it was something that wasn't taken super seriously at the time," Toews said. "I thought that Brad [Aldrich, the perpetrator] being let go was the way it was dealt with. To me it was water under the bridge."
I have news for Toews. Sexual assault is nothing like a river. It's more like a cesspool.
Few need to be reminded that this comes from a guy who was the team's captain at the time and remains so today. Where's the outrage for what occurred? Where's any sincere empathy for Kyle Beach? In addition, according to Beach's interviews with Reid Schar, a former prosecutor and author of the Jenner report, "John Doe [Beach's pseudonym in the report] recalled that during the training camp [the next summer], multiple players called John Doe derogatory words and asked if John Doe missed 'his boyfriend Brad.'"
Clearly, Toews, as team leader, very well could have been a member of the cadre who didn't take Beach's situation "super seriously." On the assumption that he personally wasn't dishing out the abuse, as captain, he should have known about it and stood up for what was moral and right.
However, in his recent encounter with the press, The Captain very seriously reacted to the forced resignations of general manager Stan Bowman and vice-president Al MacIsaac.
"I have a ton of respect for them as people," said Toews. "[They] lose everything they care about and their livelihoods as well. I don't understand how that makes it [sexual assault] go away. They're good people."
Obviously Toews doesn't understand much of anything. He can't get a grip on the impact and lasting pain inflicted upon Beach, who has lived with the horror, guilt, and torment resulting from that night more than a decade ago. Bowman and MacIsaac might resurface in the front office of another team in the future while Beach will continue to deal with his horrific experience the rest of his life.
Aldrich, the Hawks' video coordinator at the time, focused on the Black Aces, a taxi squad of young players who traveled with the team during the 2010 playoffs and were a step away from joining the Hawks in the event of injury to one of the regulars.
Aldrich hung out with Beach and the other athletes, usually at bars in Chicago and on the road. Alcohol and available women were part of the equation as he groomed Beach and at least one other Black Ace, according to the Jenner report.
Beach was 20 at the time, a first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 2008, just a year after the Hawks tabbed Kane in the first round. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the North Vancouver, B.C. product rose through the ranks, netting 52 goals in 68 games, while amassing 186 minutes in penalties, in 2009-10 for Spokane of the Western Hockey League. His performance earned him a promotion to Rockford, just a step away from the NHL.
Meanwhile, Aldrich gained the trust of Beach by claiming that he could sing the praises of the youngster to the Hawks' coaching staff. Furthermore, Aldrich claimed that he was the clandestine messenger of the coaches' critiques, informing players of skills that required attention so that they'd be in the good graces of the coaching staff.
Both Toews and Kane in their comments last week called Beach a "happy-go-lucky guy," which indicated that they most probably had compared notes prior to meeting the media.
In their testimony with Schar, Aldrich and Beach described the sexual encounter with one major contradiction. Aldrich said it was consensual while Beach branded Aldrich as a bare-faced liar. A week or so after assaulting Beach, Aldrich groped the genitals of a Blackhawks front office intern in the back seat of a taxi amid the Stanley Cup celebration. In 2012, according to Miami (Ohio) University, Aldrich assaulted two individuals at a hockey camp, and in 2013 he was convicted of the sexual assault of a 16-year-old in his hometown of Houghton, Michigan, for which Aldrich spent nine months in prison.
Bowman, MacIsaac and coach Joel Quenneville, who resigned his position last week at the helm of the Florida Panthers, all were part of a hastily called meeting described in the Jenner report directly following the Hawks' victory in the Western Conference Finals, thus qualifying to meet Philadelphia for the Stanley Cup.
There are inconsistencies and disparities about a few of the details of this confab, but all participants agreed that the topic was what to do about Beach's account that he was sexually assaulted by Aldrich. Beach had disclosed as much to skating skills coach Paul Vincent who, according to the Jenner report, told Beach he would inform the "proper people." MacIsaac also admitted that he had heard rumors about the assault.
Quenneville, especially, said that team chemistry would be disrupted if any action were to be taken during the Stanley Cup finals. He could have benefited from a good dose of Ted Lasso. The outcome was that team president John McDonough said he would take care of the situation.
Now we know that Aldrich, after being allowed to take the Cup to Houghton for a day, as is the custom for each player and coach of the championship team, subsequently had a choice of an investigation or resignation. Needless to say, he took the latter - along with an approximately $35,000 severance package.
As for Beach, he was left to fight off demons as he lingered in minor league and European hockey since 2010. He's never appeared in an NHL game.
If the Hawks' management team felt there was substance to Beach's story, they could have done what the folks in Houghton did: Call the cops. Illinois guidelines are clear about sexual assault of minors, disabled people, and the elderly although not as clear - reporting is "encouraged" as opposed to mandated - when it comes to individuals over the age of 18.
However, if the authorities had been contacted, then future victims of Aldrich's behavior in all probability would have been spared. Since the Hawks covered up the assault and disclosed nothing to Aldrich's future employers, he didn't hesitate to strike at least four more times.
Watching Beach's emotional interview on TSN last week, you get a sense of the horror and lasting impact victims of sexual assault endure. I doubt whether Toews or Kane had seen that video when they faced the media. If they had and still responded as they did, then they truly need help. And they should get it some other place than in Chicago.
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