Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz shut down questions about fallout surrounding the Kyle Beach lawsuit that has embroiled the organization for much of the past year.
During a town hall with fans on Wednesday, one reporter asked the assembled panel, which included Wirtz and Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, about how Chicago intended to avoid any power imbalances between players and coaches in the future, like the one Beach endured in 2010. Rocky Wirtz was heated in his replies, and later apologized, through a team statement, for his response.
Beach, a former first-round pick by the Blackhawks in 2008, filed a lawsuit in May 2021 against Chicago alleging prolonged sexual assault by the team's former video coach, Brad Aldrich, in 2010. An independent investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block concluded that "nothing was done" by senior leaders to prevent the harassment Beach faced, and longtime general manager Stan Bowman and vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac both resigned and others were fired because of what Jenner & Block unearthed.
The Blackhawks ultimately resolved their lawsuit with Beach in December via a confidential settlement.
In his heated exchange during Wednesday's panel, Rocky Wirtz made it clear he isn't willing to revisit the past.
"I think the report speaks for itself," Wirtz said. "The people that were involved are no longer here. We're not looking back at 2010; we're looking forward. And we're not going to talk about 2010."
When pressed again to discuss the Blackhawks' plans to protect players in the future, Wirtz doubled down further.
"What we're going to do today is our business. I don't think it's any of your business," Wirtz said. "Because I don't think it's your business. You don't work for the company. If someone in the company asked that question, we'll answer it, and I think you should get on to the next subject. We're not going to talk about Kyle Beach. We're not going to talk about anything that happened.
"We're moving on. You want to keep asking the same question? What more do I have to say? You want to hear the same answer? What's your next question?"
Another reporter followed up and questioned why the Blackhawks pledged transparency in the process of hiring a new general manager but refused to answer a question about the Beach lawsuit.
"I answered [that question]," Wirtz said. "I told you to get off the subject. We're not going to talk about the report [on Beach]. We read it. We're moving on. I think you're out of line. I don't like your questions. Why don't you ask about something else? Why don't you ask about the GM search? Or something else? Why do you bring up old business?"
Wirtz didn't speak again during the remainder of the panel, which wrapped up shortly after his second outburst. The Blackhawks hosted the Minnesota Wild later Wednesday, and during the game, the team issued a statement of apology from Wirtz.
"Tonight, at the Chicago Blackhawks town hall, my response to two questions crossed the line," the statement read. "I want to apologize to the fans and to those reporters, and I regret that my response overshadowed the great work this organization is doing to move forward. We have the right leaders and right processes in place to create a safe environment for our employees and players."
The Blackhawks are deep in the process of hiring a general manager to replace Bowman. Earlier in the evening, Danny Wirtz touched on how that was unfolding so far.
"There is no right answer in terms of timing on these things," he said of hiring Bowman's successor. "We don't do this every day. I think we've afforded ourselves a little bit of time to get this right. And no matter what was going to happen, we were going to hire a general manager not for the 2021-22 season but for the long term. We have a lot of conversations around structure ... and we're going to have clear accountability with our general manager. I'm really excited what the new leader will bring in and build around them.
"We want our organization to be productive and get the job done."