Gary Bettman says potential Blackhawks discipline will depend on independent investigation into allegations “concerning”

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TAMPA, Fla – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has been made aware of the sexual assault allegations against the former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Brad Aldrich “relatively recently”, and although he found them “concerning” he said he would wait for an independent review to be completed before deciding on a potential discipline.

“But my first reaction is, ‘Tell me the facts,'” Bettman said at his annual Stanley Cup pre-final press conference on Monday. “Once we know the facts, we are in a better position to assess what can and should not be done.”

According to a lawsuit brought by an unidentified former Blackhawks player, Aldrich, a former video coach, sexually assaulted him and another player during the team’s 2010 playoff race to the Cup title. Stanley. The player, named “John Doe” in the file, is claiming more than $ 150,000 in damages.

In an internal memo sent to staff on Monday and obtained by ESPN, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz said the team was retaining former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of law firm Jenner & Block LLP to conduct a ” independent review “of what had happened.

“We want to reiterate to you that we take the allegations described in these lawsuits very seriously. They do not in any way reflect the culture or values ​​of this organization,” Wirtz wrote in the note, adding that investigators “have been asked to follow the facts wherever they are. drive. “

Bettman said the NHL believes an independent investigation is “appropriate.”

According to Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly, the Blackhawks’ deputy attorney first alerted the league office to Aldrich’s allegations. Neither Daly nor Bettman specified the exact time they were made aware of it, but Bettman classified it as “relatively recently given the allegations, I think, from at least what we know publicly, are 10 years old “.

Bettman said “all options are available” when it comes to disciplining individuals or the club.

“Let’s see what the investigation reveals, and then we can figure out what comes next,” Bettman said. “I think everyone is jumping too far, too fast. It’s going to be handled appropriately and professionally, and done well.”

TSN reported last week that the players reported the incident to then Blackhawks coach Paul Vincent ahead of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. Vincent allegedly called a meeting a day later in the team’s hotel in San Jose, Calif., and reportedly shared the information with then-team president John McDonagh, general manager Stan Bowman, senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac and mental skills trainer James Gary. Vincent said he told executives to report the incident to Chicago Police, but that never happened.

Bettman insisted he didn’t know more than what had already been reported by various media. Chicago radio station WBEZ first reported last week on the lawsuit, which was filed in May.

“What we do know is what’s based on what’s public,” Bettman said. “And that’s why we’re going to be interested to see what the investigation reveals and doesn’t reveal.”

A member of the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010 told ESPN over the weekend that he believed the NHL was “trying to sweep the situation under the rug.” The player told ESPN that Aldrich showed up for the squad photos ahead of the Cup parade and was never seen by the squad again.

“There were rumors that Aldrich was trying to do something with the players,” the player told ESPN.

The Blackhawks never told the players that Aldrich had left the organization or explained why.

“It’s scary to think people could turn their heads and let this happen,” the 2010 player told ESPN, noting that he was very disturbed by reports that the Blackhawks had written Aldrich a letter. recommendation for his next job. Aldrich’s first job after the Blackhawks was with a high school team and he went on to become director of hockey operations at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, which also opened an investigation.

After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct involving a high school student. He was sentenced in 2014 to nine months in prison and five years of probation, which ended in 2019. He is now listed on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

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