Carroll: In order for the Blackhawks to move forward, they should select a new captain


Graphic by Angeli Mittal. Photo by Joshua Hoffman.

United Center, home of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. This past week, the organization released an investigation this week into the handling of a reported sexual assault in 2010.

Gabriela Carroll, Senior Staffer

Content warning: This article contains mention of sexual assault.

Less than a week ago, the Chicago Blackhawks released an investigation into the handling of a reported sexual assault of a then-anonymous player perpetrated by video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 just prior to the team’s Stanley Cup win.

In a The Sports Network interview with Rick Westhead, the player was later revealed to be the Blackhawks’ 2008 first-round draft pick Kyle Beach.

Since then, general manager Stan Bowman, senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac and former head coach Joel Quenneville, have all lost their jobs or resigned due to their mishandling of Beach’s original report.

John McDonough, then-team president, made the final decision to wait before reporting the allegations to human resources until after the Stanley Cup win. He was fired in April 2020 due to the team’s poor on-ice performance.

Just two players remain from the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks team — franchise icons Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. For more than a decade, Toews has been praised as the standard for leadership in the NHL. “Captain Serious” led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup wins after being named captain at 20 years old in 2008.

There’s lingering uncertainty over how much information the players on the 2010 Blackhawks team had about Aldrich sexually assaulting Beach, who at the time was a “Black Ace,” a prospect called up to be with the team in the playoffs. While Beach stated that everyone in the locker room knew, Kane said he only found out recently.

Toews, however, publicly stated that he knew at the training camp that preceded the 2010-11 season, where Beach said he had been called derogatory words and asked about “his boyfriend Brad” by some of his teammates.

As captain, why did Toews not step in or offer support to Beach? This is someone who is supposedly one of the best leaders in the league. Making sure your players don’t face harassment from teammates is not a high bar to clear.

Lest you think, “Oh, he was just 22 years old, he shouldn’t have been expected to handle these difficult situations,” it gets worse. Toews spoke to the media on Thursday, two days after the report was released and Bowman and MacIsaac were fired. This also followed Beach revealing that he was the anonymous John Doe.

“Stan and Al, make any argument you want, they’re not directly complicit in what happened,” Toews said. ”Regardless of mistakes that may have been made, for someone like Stan, who has done so much for the Blackhawks, and Al as well, to lose everything that they care about and their livelihoods, I don’t understand how that makes it go away, to just delete them from existence and (say), ‘That’s it, we’ll never hear from them again.’ I have a lot of respect for them as people. They’re good people.”

This isn’t all he said, and I recommend watching the entire news conference, because pretty much all of it is appalling. Toews, regarded as one of the best leaders in the sport, refused to even acknowledge that firing the executives involved in the cover-up was the right move.

Toews may not have played a role in the cover-up, and Aldrich sexually assaulting Beach may not have been Toews’ fault. But prior to these allegations surfacing, no one would have thought the harassment or use of derogatory language would happen in Toews’ locker room. Toews said it himself in his news conference when asked about it: “That doesn’t happen in Chicago.”

Evidently, it does.

Before this week, Toews was beloved and upheld in hockey as a role model to virtually everyone. Even after the report was released, a significant number of fans, and not just Blackhawks fans, defended him and his role in how Beach was treated.

Blackhawks alternate captain Alex DeBrincat, who was 12 years old in 2010, gave a far better statement and said he hopes the team can “not move on from it, but learn from it and come together as a team and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Even Kane gave an even more resonant statement. Despite saying Bowman was a “great man” who “did a lot for (him) personally” in his original comments on Thursday, he apologized Monday night for “(putting his) personal experience with management ahead of the way Kyle was treated by them.”

Toews hasn’t faced the media since he gave the Thursday statement. He’s the only member of the Blackhawks leadership group in 2010 who is still with the team, and no one from management remains.

Can the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago move forward if Toews is still captain? The two years left on his contract at $10.5 million with a full no-move clause means he’ll almost certainly remain a Blackhawk.

But to make lasting organizational change, it’s time for new leaders to step forward, and for Toews to step aside.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @gablcarroll