Attorneys for a former player suing the Chicago Blackhawks for allegedly ignoring his complaints that a team employee sexually abused him during the 2009-10 Stanley Cup championship season said Monday that their client was inspired to come forward by another player on that team who sued the organization — Kyle Beach.
"Certainly, having somebody like Kyle Beach, who was a known player, someone who was very well known, to come forward — that's what gave him the courage," attorney Antonio Romanucci said of his client, identified in court documents as John Doe. "People say, 'Oh, this is a money grab' — it's not. I mean, ultimately, there will be hopefully some financial compensation for him. But there is no doubt that in these situations, people who have been abused sexually take time for them to come forward. And when they see that other people come forward, that gives them a path to follow."
The lawsuit filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court accuses the team of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress among other allegations. It seeks more than $300,000.
The plaintiff was a member of the "Black Aces" squad, which was made up of minor-league players who traveled with the NHL team during the playoffs to fill in in case of injuries. One of those players was Beach, who reached a settlement with the Blackhawks in December 2021 after alleging he was sexually assaulted by then-video coach Brad Aldrich.
The new lawsuit raises similar allegations against Aldrich and says the Blackhawks showed "utter indifference and/or conscious disregard for the safety of its employees, including John Doe." The plaintiff, who currently plays overseas, was 19 to 20 years old when the alleged abuse occurred and was out of the organization within a year, Friedl said.
The Blackhawks issued a statement saying the organization takes allegations of workplace misconduct seriously and noted that two years ago the organization initiated an independent investigation into the events of 2010.
"We've changed as a result of what happened and implemented numerous positive improvements throughout our organization to ensure the safety and well-being of our players and employees," the team said. "This includes completely rebuilding the leadership team with personnel who demonstrate our values and bring the right subject matter expertise in the critical areas of compliance and human resources, an expansive mental health program, and new reporting mechanisms and training for all employees."
The lawsuit says Aldrich invited Black Aces players to his home under the guise of discussing hockey strategy but later attempted to make players watch pornographic movies with him. Aldrich is accused of offering to perform oral sex on John Doe and of approaching him from behind and pushing his penis against his back and buttocks through his clothes.
It says Aldrich once surprised Doe while the player was having sex with a woman by rubbing his feet in an apparent attempt to join the encounter, and offered to pay for him to receive "sexual favors" if Aldrich could watch. Aldrich is also accused of texting the player pictures of his penis and threatening John Doe's career if he reported his behavior to the organization.
In June 2010, after the team had won the Cup, according to the investigative report, Aldrich was given the option of resigning or being part of an investigation. Aldrich signed a separation agreement and no investigation was conducted.
"It's the organization that failed to act on its own policies when these reports came in," Friedl said.
Romanucci said Beach will probably be a witness in the case "in some way, shape and form." As for whether more players might have been abused, Friedl said, "My client hasn't commented on other individuals, other than his respect for Mr. Beach."
He dismissed the idea that waiting more than a decade to file suit undermines the player's claims.
"I think that's a narrative that some people will try and sell," Friedl said. "I think that's a narrative of re-victimization of individuals who survive any sort of abuse. We see it time and time again. The arguments that are made, that are thrown up in the face of these individuals — what are you gonna gain, why did it take so long. And these are good questions at first. But again, they contribute to this narrative in society of re-blame or blame the victim."
Aldrich in December 2013 pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in a case involving a 16-year-old high school hockey player in Michigan. Prosecutors dropped a felony count. Aldrich was released from jail in 2014.
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