A lawsuit against the Chicago Blackhawks, claiming that the team was liable for the actions of former video coach Bradley Aldrich when he sexually assaulted a player a little over a decade ago and then a high school student after he had left the team’s employ, has led the organization to retain Jenner & Block to conduct an “independent review.”
The firm will have a sensitive task ahead of it.
The Blackhawks were sued on May 7 by a former player (John Doe), who alleged that he and another player were sexually assaulted by Aldrich in May 2010.
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged among other things that Aldrich:
- sent inappropriate text messages
- turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of [Doe]
- threatened to injure [Doe] physically, financially, and emotionally if [Doe] did not engage in sexual activity
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has weighed in, saying in a press conference that he would “await the results of the investigation and then decide what, if anything, needs to be done from our standpoint. All options are available if there’s something that warrants punishment.”
Bettman further encouraged a patient approach: ‘‘Everybody is jumping too far, too fast. This is going to be handled appropriately and professionally and done right.’’
The Chicago media has reported that three players from the 2010 team — including defensemen Brent Sopel and Nick Boynton — have come forth, saying Aldrich’s alleged assaults were “widely known among the team.”
In response to the lawsuit, the Blackhawks moved to dismiss the Doe 1 claim on statute of limitations grounds.
The team adopted a different strategy regarding Doe 2, involving the 2013 incident. The Chicago Sun Times summarized the “two main arguments” made in the Doe 2 motion.
“First, the Hawks argue they ‘under Illinois law…[have] no duty to protect an individual from the criminal acts of a third party,’ given they neither knew Doe 2 nor employed Aldrich at the time,” according to the paper.
“Second, the Hawks argue the claim in the original lawsuit that they provided ‘positive references to future employers of Aldrich’ is ‘vague and factually unsupported.’ They also argue the lawsuit’s lack of allegation claiming they provided positive reference specifically to Houghton High School is a ‘fatal omission,’ rendering irrelevant any arguments about whether they provided positive references to other employers.”
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the two plaintiffs, Susan Loggans, has told the media that she and her clients would not participate in the investigation. Her reasoning centered on the fact that the team and league were paying for the investigation and have not promised to publicly release the findings.