Chicago Blackhawks hire firm to conduct independent review of sexual assault allegations

The Chicago Blackhawks have retained a former federal prosecutor to conduct an "independent review" of the Brad Aldrich allegations, team CEO Danny Wirtz told staffers in a memo on Monday.

According to a lawsuit filed by an unidentified former Blackhawks player, Aldrich, a former video coach, sexually assaulted him and another player during the 2010 playoff run to the Stanley Cup title. The player, referred to as "John Doe" in the filing, is seeking more than $150,000 in damages. Chicago radio station WBEZ first reported on the lawsuit, which was filed in May.

"Much has recently been said and written regarding the two lawsuits filed against the organization stemming from alleged events that occurred in 2010," Wirtz wrote in the memo, obtained by ESPN. "We want to reiterate to you that we take the allegations described in these lawsuits very seriously. They in no way reflect this organization's culture or values."

Wirtz said that "an experienced team of professionals, led by former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP" will conduct the review. Wirtz noted the group has extensive experience and "no previous ties to the Blackhawks organization, and have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead."

Wirtz wrote that "out of the respect of the legal proceedings and independent review" the Blackhawks will not comment further on the situation until each process has "reached its respective conclusion."

TSN reported last week that players reported the incident to then-Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent before the 2010 Western Conference finals. Vincent reportedly called a meeting a day later at the team hotel in San Jose and shared the information with then-team president John McDonagh, general manager Stan Bowman, senior VP of hockey ops Al MacIsaac and mental skills coach James Gary. Vincent said he told the executives to report the incident to Chicago police, but that never happened.

On Sunday, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin -- who at the time was the director of player personnel with the Blackhawks -- said he was "not aware" of the situation at the time.

"It came out recently, there was a meeting that I heard that was done in Chicago, I was not part of any meeting, and I was not part of any decision based on that," Bergevin said in a pre-Stanley Cup Final news conference on Sunday. "And I was not aware of anything going on at the time. So you can go on the record with that."

One member of the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team told ESPN that he felt the NHL was "trying to sweep the situation under the rug."

That player told ESPN that Aldrich showed up for team photos before the Cup parade and was never seen by the team again.

There were some rumors that "Aldrich tried to do something with players," the player told ESPN, but there was never any communication about what happened. The Blackhawks never announced to the players that Aldrich had departed the organization or explained why.

"We go to this parade with 3 million people, and within days we're separated all over the world and get into offseason mode," the player said.

"It's scary to think people could turn their head and let this happen," the player said, noting he was most disturbed by reports that the Blackhawks wrote Aldrich a letter of recommendation for his next job. Aldrich's first job after the Blackhawks was with a high school team and he then became director of hockey operations at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, which has 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 on Michigan's registry of sex offenders.