'I didn't know anything': Oilers' Keith says he was unaware of sex assault allegations while with Blackhawks
EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers defenceman Duncan Keith says he wasn’t aware of sexual assault allegations involving a former teammate while he played for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The team 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 club.
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.”
The player was 20 years old at the time and was called up to the team to serve as a “black ace,” a player who practices with the team in case of an injury or suspension.
Keith, 38, was part of the 2010 Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup.
“I didn’t know anything … my whole focus was right in the moment,” Keith said Wednesday.
“Our focus was trying to win hockey games and win in the playoffs.”
Keith denied allegations that all players were aware of what had happened and said he doesn’t know who the victim is.
“A lot of thoughts immediately go to him and what he had to endure at such a young age in his career.”
Keith later told reporters he declined to be interviewed as part of the Blackhawks' investigation, saying he was unaware of the allegations and had nothing to add.
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.
‘DISTURBING AND DIFFICULT TO READ’
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.”
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.
$2M NHL FINE
Half of the NHL’s $2-million fine is being designated to 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 a separate assault in Michigan.
With files from the Associated Press