Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman resigns after sexual assault probe

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010, according to an investigation commissioned by the franchise that cast a shadow over the NHL.

Stan Bowman, Chicago’s general manager and president of hockey operations, resigned Tuesday in the wake of the findings by an outside law firm, and the NHL fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.” Al MacIsaac, one of the team’s top hockey executives, also is out.

Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who were with the Blackhawks when the sexual assault allegations were first reported, were named in the damning report as well.

The Panthers declined to comment, citing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s plans to meet with Quenneville. Cheveldayoff said he shared everything he knows with Jenner & Block for its report.

“Further, I look forward to my discussion with Commissioner Bettman at the soonest possible date to continue to cooperate fully with the National Hockey League,” Cheveldayoff said in a statement provided by the Jets to The Associated Press. “I will reserve any further comment until after that conversation has been conducted.”

[UPDATE: Following a Thursday meeting with Bettman, Joel Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Panthers. Andrew Brunette will take over on an interim basis.]

Quenneville was on the ice with the Panthers for their game-day morning skate Wednesday. He said afterward he would meet with Bettman on Thursday.

Quenneville said he had taken part in a number of meetings with the Panthers since Tuesday, saying only that the investigation’s findings were addressed. “I look forward to continuing to contribute to the process,” he said of the meeting with Bettman.

The Blackhawks hired Jenner & Block to conduct what they called an independent review in response to two lawsuits filed against the franchise: one by a player identified as John Doe alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

The report, which team CEO Danny Wirtz called “both disturbing and difficult to read,” was released by the franchise. Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said the firm found no evidence that Wirtz or his father, Rocky, who owns the team, were aware of the allegations before the former player’s lawsuit was brought to their attention ahead of its filing.

“It is clear that in 2010 the executives of this organization put team performance above all else,” Danny Wirtz said. “John Doe deserved better from the Blackhawks.”

In a statement released through his attorney, Susan Loggans, John Doe said he was “grateful for the accountability” shown by the Blackhawks.

“Although nothing can truly change the detriment to my life over the past decade because of the actions of one man inside the Blackhawks organization, I am very grateful to have the truth be recognized, and I look forward to continuing the long journey to recovery,” John Doe said.

Danny Wirtz said he has instructed the organization’s lawyers to try to “reach a fair resolution consistent with the totality of the circumstances.” But Loggans said there hadn’t been any settlement talks.

“I’m waiting to see if there’s any action behind their repentance that they expressed today,” she told the AP.

Bowman, the son of Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, said he was stepping aside because he didn’t want to be a distraction. He also resigned his position as GM of the U.S men’s hockey team at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“Eleven years ago, while serving in my first year as general manager, I was made aware of potential inappropriate behavior by a then-video coach involving a player,” he said in a statement released by the Blackhawks. “I promptly reported the matter to the then-president and CEO who committed to handling the matter.

“I learned this year that the inappropriate behavior involved a serious allegation of sexual assault. I relied on the direction of my superior that he would take appropriate action. Looking back, now knowing he did not handle the matter promptly, I regret assuming he would do so.”

According to the report, the encounter between John Doe, then 20, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010. Doe told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations that he also detailed in a lawsuit. Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual.

On May 23, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, former team president John McDonough, former executive vice president Jay Blunk and then-assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with then-coach Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations. (McDonough, Blunk and Gary are no longer employed in the NHL.)

Schar said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.”

“What is clear is that after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with a player no action was taken for three weeks,” Schar said.

According to the report, Bowman recalled that, after learning of the incident, Quenneville shook his head and said it was hard for the team to get to where it was, and they could not deal with this issue now.

The report found no evidence of any investigation or contact with human resources before McDonough informed the team’s director of human resources about the allegations on June 14 — a delay that violated the Blackhawks’ sexual harassment policy and had “consequences,” according to Schar.

“During that period, Aldrich continued to work with and travel with the team,” Schar said. “On June 10th, during an evening of celebration after the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win the previous day, Aldrich made an unwanted sexual advance towards a Blackhawks intern, who was 22 years old at the time.

“Also after the Stanley Cup win, Aldrich continued to participate in celebrations in the presence of John Doe, who had made the complaint.”

While announcing in July that he was willing to participate in the team’s probe, Quenneville said in a statement that he “first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer.” Cheveldayoff said in a statement that he had no knowledge of the allegations until he was asked if he was aware of anything prior to the end of Aldrich’s employment with the Blackhawks.

Bettman said he would “reserve judgment” on Quenneville and Cheveldayoff, and he plans to meet with them to discuss their roles in the situation.

The NHL said $1 million of the Blackhawks’ fine will help fund organizations in the Chicago area “that provide counseling and training for, and support and assistance to, survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse.”

On June 16, 2010, according to the report, Aldrich was given the option of resigning or being part of an investigation into what happened with John Doe. Aldrich signed a separation agreement and no investigation was conducted.

Aldrich received a severance and a playoff bonus, according to the report, and he was paid a salary “for several months.” He hosted the Stanley Cup for a day in his hometown, and his name was engraved on the iconic trophy.

The former player’s lawsuit, filed May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is referred in the document as John Doe is seeking more than $150,000 in damages.

Aldrich was sentenced to nine months in prison for the Michigan assault.

Kyle Davidson was elevated to interim GM for the Blackhawks, and USA Hockey said it expects to announce a replacement for Bowman soon.

Jenner & Block report can be read in full here: https://jenner.com/Chicago_Blackhawks_Investigation_Report.
[The report contains graphic descriptions that some may find upsetting or offensive.] 

Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

“I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

“It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

“We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers ready for 1st training camp together

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov was sound asleep at his home in Finland when the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers was finalized, which isn’t surprising considering it was around 4 a.m. in that part of the world.

He woke up and read texts from friends reacting to the deal.

And it wasn’t too long before he got a message from Tkachuk.

“The first message was `(expletive) right’ and how he was excited to come to Florida,” Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, said at Florida’s media day. “`Let’s take this next step, let’s be a winning team for many years to come.’ That’s who he is. He wants to win. He wants to bring that character to this organization. And I think he’s done some damage already.”

With that, Barkov was sold.

And after a few weeks of informally skating with one another, the Panthers start the process of officially seeing what they have in Tkachuk when the team’s training camp – the first under new coach Paul Maurice – opens.

“We’ve basically had everybody here for a few weeks,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like I’ve been in training camp for a couple of weeks. So today doesn’t feel that new to me. I’ve gotten to know everybody … so let’s get these games going. I’m sick and tired of just practicing and working. I want to start playing some games. I think everybody feels the same way.”

Maurice was hired over the summer as well, inheriting a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and went to the second round of the playoffs — the first series win for Florida since the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

He’s as eager as the players are for the first formal practice, calling it “our first Christmas.”

“The house is bought. Most of the boxes are unpacked,” Maurice said. “I’ve got two kids that kind of came with me; one’s in Coral Gables, one’s in Estero. Their places are unpacked. They’re out of our house. Once you get down here, for me, you spend most of your days at the rink. So, experiencing all of South Florida, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

As part of the deal that went down on July 22, the 24-year-old Tkachuk signed a eight-year, $76 million contract. That’s not the only big cost that the Panthers had to agree to while executing the trade; they also sent Jonathan Huberdeau, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a left wing who had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points last season.

“I wish all the best to Huby and Weegs,” Barkov said. “They’re great. Everyone loved them. Only good things to say about them. It happens, and for sure, it was best for the team and organization to do this. We move on, and we’ll get ready for a new season.”

BOBROVSKY’S SUMMER

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is Russian, still makes his home in St. Petersburg, and went there for the bulk of his offseason.

He said it was not logistically difficult to travel there (or return to the U.S.) this summer, even as the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine continues. Bobrovsky said last season that he was not trying to focus on anything but hockey, and when asked if it was difficult to be back in Russia as war continues he kept the same approach.

“I had a good summer,” Bobrovsky said. “I saw friends, I saw family. It’s all been fine. I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. I’m not involved in that stuff.”

CAMP ROSTER

Florida is opening camp with 56 players – 31 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goalies. That group includes brothers Eric Staal and Marc Staal; Marc Staal signed as a free agent in July; Eric Staal is with Florida on a tryout contract.

Coyotes sign Barrett Hayton right before training camp

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes signed forward Barrett Hayton to a two-year contract right before the start of training camp.

Terms of the deal were not released.

The 22-year-old Hayton was a restricted free agent and not initially listed on Arizona’s roster for camp.

Hayton had 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games with the Coyotes last season, all career highs.

Arizona drafted the Peterborough, Ontario native with the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft. He has 13 goals and 18 assists in 94 career games with the Coyotes.