The Chicago Blackhawks concluded their investigation of abuse allegations against suspended assistant coach Marc Crawford, and the team announced Monday that he will resume assistant coaching duties on Jan. 2.
The Blackhawks said in a statement that they believe Crawford has taken steps to deal with his behavior and has learned from his past actions. They also noted that there have been no reported incidents during Crawford's tenure with the team.
Chicago launched a "thorough review" of Crawford on Dec. 2 after several former players came forward with examples of Crawford's abusive conduct during his previous coaching jobs. The Blackhawks say they consulted with independent legal counsel and "engaged with many of Marc's former players, colleagues, and executive management" throughout their investigation.
"We do not condone his previous behavior," the team said in a statement. "Through our review, we confirmed that Marc proactively sought professional counseling to work to improve and become a better communicator, person and coach. We learned that Marc began counseling in 2010 and he has continued therapy on a regular basis since."
Crawford also released a statement in which he thanked players who came forward with the allegations for their courage and apologized for his behavior. He said he has worked hard over the last 10 years to improve himself.
Crawford, 58, is in his first season with Chicago. He coached the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 1996 and coached with the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators.
Among the players making allegations was Patrick O'Sullivan, who said on Twitter that he "went through awful things with my first NHL coach who knew my abuse background as a child." O'Sullivan debuted for Crawford's Kings in 2006-07. O'Sullivan also made those allegations in his book, which was published four years ago.
Sean Avery told the New York Post that Crawford kicked him during a game in the 2006-07 season, while Brent Sopel told Barstool Sports' Spittin' Chiclets podcast that Crawford "kicked me, he choked me, he grabbed the back of my jersey and pulled me back."
Avery and Sopel have since walked back their comments.
"Players like Sean Avery, Harold Druken, Patrick O'Sullivan and Brent Sopel have had the strength to publicly come forward and I am deeply sorry for hurting them," Crawford said in a statement released by the Blackhawks. "I offer my sincere apologies for my past behavior."
Crawford said he "made sincere efforts" to address his inappropriate conduct.
"I got into coaching to help people, and to think that my actions in any way caused harm to even one player fills me with tremendous regret and disappointment in myself," Crawford said in the statement. "I used unacceptable language and conduct toward players in hopes of motivating them, and, sometimes went too far. As I deeply regret this behavior, I have worked hard over the last decade to improve both myself and my coaching style."
There has been increased scrutiny on the conduct of NHL coaches since allegations against Bill Peters came to light last month. Former player Akim Aliu alleged Peters directed racial epithets toward him when they were in the minors 10 years ago. Peters admitted to the conduct, and days later he resigned from the team.
There were also allegations that Peters kicked and punched players during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. In addition, several stories came about how now-fired Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock psychologically abused players. Leafs president Brendan Shanahan addressed those concerns at the Board of Governors meeting last week, saying some of Babcock's tactics were not "appropriate or acceptable."