CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz apologized Wednesday night after angrily dismissing any conversation related to the franchise’s response when a player said he was sexually assaulted by an assistant coach.
Wirtz made his remarks in a town hall. It was the first time the franchise’s top executives have been publicly faced with questions since the team released a report from an outside law firm that found the organization had denied Kyle Beach’s claims that he was during the team’s run Attacked by then-video coach Brad Aldrich, severely battered the 2010 Stanley Cup title.
“Tonight at Chicago Blackhawks City Hall, my answer to two questions crossed the line,” Wirtz said in a release. “I want to apologize to the fans and to these reporters, and I regret that my response overshadowed the great work this organization is doing to move forward. We have the right leaders and the right processes in place to create a safe environment for our staff and players.”
City Hall on a snowy night in Chicago would be the final step in the franchise’s work to restore its tarnished reputation. But it was derailed by Wirtz’s response when a reporter tried to ask Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s son and the team’s CEO, what the organization was doing to address the power dynamic between players and coaches in light of Beach’s allegations.
“I’m going to answer the question, not Danny,” Rocky Wirtz said. “I think the report speaks for itself. The people involved are no longer here. We’re not looking back at 2010, we’re looking ahead. And we’re not going to talk about 2010.”
When Danny Wirtz tried to answer, Rocky Wirtz interrupted his son and said it was none of the reporters’ business. When asked why it wasn’t the reporter’s business, Rocky Wirtz replied, “You don’t work for the company.”
“If someone in the company asks this question, we will answer it,” Wirtz continues. “And I think you should move on to the next subject. We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach. We won’t talk about everything that happened. Now it goes on. What more do I need to say?”
Wirtz also repeatedly interrupted a follow-up question from a second reporter. “Why are you bringing up old things?” said Wirtz.
Wirtz’s outburst questions the direction of the franchise, once considered one of the NHL’s finest organizations, as it seeks new leadership for its hockey operations division. The collapsing team had lost six of seven en route to Wednesday night’s matchup against Minnesota and attendance is on the decline.
Longtime general manager Stan Bowman resigned after Jenner & Block’s review concluded in October, and Al MacIsaac, another top hockey executive with the Blackhawks, also left the organization. The NHL fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and inadequate and untimely response.”
After a comprehensive look at the structure of its hockey operating structure, the team plans to begin interviewing GM candidates this week.
“One of the things we will ask every general manager that comes into the interview process is how they will help transform hockey culture,” Danny Wirtz said during the town hall. “I think it’s crucial that everyone in a leadership position leads by example and sets the tone within the organization to ensure we create a safe place for our players to play.”
The Blackhawks reached a confidential settlement with Beach after the former first-round pick’s lawsuit brought his allegations to the fore. Aldrich told investigators for the team’s report that the encounter was consensual.
A second lawsuit filed by a former high school student convicted by Aldrich of assault in Michigan was quietly dismissed “by agreement or agreement” in December.
The team-commissioned investigation found no evidence that Rocky or Danny Wirtz knew of the allegations prior to Beach’s lawsuit being brought to attention prior to its filing. President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner, who also attended City Hall, was hired in December 2020.
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