October 28, 2021

Chicago Blackhawks Cover-Up

How would your organization respond to a complaint of sexual assault?

In 2010, just before the Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks received a complaint of sexual assault by a player against the team’s video coach.  According to the investigation report, the leadership team met to discuss the complaint and decided it was not something that should be addressed at the time because it would distract the team heading into the final. 

An independent investigation report released by the Chicago Blackhawks organization details the sexual assault and the organization’s response.  We have included a copy of the report here but warn you the details are graphic.

One of the key failings of the organization was the absence of leadership.  Despite the NHL having the right policies in place, despite the leadership group understanding their obligations, the “leaders” in the room failed to lead.  Instead, they covered up the controversy and eventually let the video coach walk away from the organization with a letter of recommendation and a severance offer.  In contrast, the victim was pushed to the side and his allegations ignored.

What Can Employers Learn:

  1. Leadership matters.  If management is not authentic in living out the values of the harassment and violence policy, those tools are meaningless;
  2. A lack of integrity and empathy has negatively impacted a series of lives.  By sweeping this issue under the rug, the victim suffered for a decade before filing a civil claim against the Blackhawks organization.  Stan Bowman, the current General Manager of the Blackhawks resigned with other resignations likely to follow. The video coach, went on to abuse other young hockey players.  There is a massive human cost to this tragedy that is difficult to quantify;
  3. Failing to lead with integrity can result in significant damages.  The Blackhawks organization faces a civil suit from the Complainant that must be resolved and will cost seven figures.  This in addition to the fine of 2 Million dollars already imposed by the league.

Workplace issues should be identified and addressed with an investigation; not swept under the rug.  As the Blackhawks are finding out, the trauma and the consequences do not disappear, they get worse over time.  Please join us for one of our upcoming workplace investigation training sessions to learn how to conduct a proper investigation.  Click here to see our training dates and to register.