An unidentified former Chicago Blackhawks player has sued the National Hockey League franchise, alleging that he and another teammate were sexually assaulted by an assistant coach before the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup victory.
The lawsuit filed late last week in Cook County Circuit Court was brought by a player identified only as “John Doe” and accuses the team of ignoring his claims against the assistant coach, who went on to be convicted of a sex crime involving a student in Michigan and is now a registered sex offender in that state.
A team spokesman late Wednesday said the allegations against the organization lacked merit.
The lawsuit alleges that in May 2010, the coach “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the Blackhawks player without the player’s consent. The lawsuit identified that coach as Brad Aldrich, who was a video coach for the Blackhawks at the time and is no longer with the organization.
The lawsuit also described “inappropriate text messages” from the coach to the player and threats to “physically, financially and emotionally” harm the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with the coach.
The player is represented by Chicago lawyer Susan Loggans, who said her client has had his life ruined by the episode and is seeking damages from the team in excess of $150,000.
“This entire man’s life has been destroyed,” she said. “I mean, he was not able to function within the NHL context and…this has really ruined…his professional career. These professional athletes have to function at the top of their game at all times in order to be competitive, and these things are really debilitating.”
Aldrich, 38, was hired by the team in 2008 and served under Coach Joel Quenneville. Aldrich held a similar role on the 2010 U.S. Olympics hockey team.
Contacted Wednesday at his Michigan employer, Aldrich abruptly hung up on two WBEZ reporters seeking reaction to the claims. State and federal sex offender databases list a home address for Aldrich in Hancock, MI, which is about 400 miles north of Chicago in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
An attorney who said he represents Aldrich later wrote in an email to WBEZ that the former coach denies the allegations. Aldrich has not been criminally charged related to these allegations.
In a statement, the team said it regards sexual harassment as an important issue but questioned the legitimacy of the lawsuit.
“The Chicago Blackhawks take the allegations asserted by a former player very seriously,” said Adam Rogowin, the Blackhawks vice president for communications. “Based on our investigation, we believe the allegations against the organization lack merit and we are confident the team will be absolved of any wrongdoing.
“As this is a pending litigation matter, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further,” he said.
The Blackhawks have previously faced allegations of sexual assault within their organization, when the team was rocked in 2015 by rape allegations against star forward Patrick Kane — a hero of the franchise’s Stanley Cup win in 2010. Prosecutors in upstate New York ultimately ended that case without bringing charges against Kane for the allegations raised by a 21-year-old female college student.
The timing of Aldrich’s departure from the Blackhawks is unclear, but Michigan records show he was convicted in 2013 of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student.
According to the newly filed Cook County lawsuit, the Blackhawks player reported Aldrich’s alleged 2010 misconduct to the team’s mental skills coach, James F. Gary, after the episode.
But the only counsel Gary allegedly offered the player was to place blame on him, the lawsuit alleged.
“On or about May 2010, Gary convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what happened, made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur,” the lawsuit stated.
Records compiled by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation show that Gary has been a licensed clinical professional counselor since 1995 and has never been disciplined.
Reached at his Elk Grove Village home Wednesday, Gary denied knowledge of the case before hanging up on WBEZ.
“I don’t know anything about this. You’d be better off talking to the Blackhawks attorney,” Gary said. “I don’t have much knowledge of this at all. Plus, I’m retiring. I’m out of the picture.
“Sorry, I can’t help you,” he said, before ending the conversation.
The lawsuit alleged that before the player sought counseling from Gary, the team was “made aware that the same team employee had sexually assaulted a teammate” of the player.
No other details about that player are contained in the lawsuit.
After the alleged assault, Loggans said her client also took his complaint to the National Hockey League Players’ Association but got no reaction.
“Nothing happened. Nothing,” she said.
The union did not respond to a WBEZ inquiry Wednesday that was transmitted through its website.
The lawsuit stated that the player “suppressed” memories of the alleged 2010 sexual assault until July 2019, when he learned Aldrich had been arrested and sentenced for the 2013 crime in Michigan.
“When he learned that this person, in fact, had gone on to damage young people, he became really upset with the fact that potentially this had happened because the Blackhawk team had not responded to his advising them of what had happened,” Loggans told WBEZ.
“He was really upset because he had believed that it was swept under the rug. He was told that it didn’t happen, that it must have been his fault, and that somehow he brought this on himself,” she continued.
“He felt had they responded properly, that maybe somebody else wouldn’t have been injured,” she said.
Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold. WBEZ investigative reporter Dan Mihalopoulos contributed to this report.