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Blackhawks Accused of Ignoring Coach Abuse Claims

Paul Steinbach

Police investigative reports obtained by Chicago-based National Public Radio station WBEZ show a former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach later convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a Michigan youth was investigated for other possible unwanted sexual contact with minors and young adult men, but the team failed to aid that probe.

The unreported law enforcement documents obtained through an open-records request also reveal new details about the sexual conduct case that landed Bradley Aldrich on a sex-offender registry and point to previously unknown alleged misconduct by Aldrich at Miami University of Ohio, where he served as director of hockey operations after leaving the Blackhawks. He resigned from that position in 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult,” the university’s attorney told police. The university told WBEZ Monday that it has opened an internal investigation into Aldrich’s brief stint there nine years ago.

Moreover, a police report obtained by WBEZ from the Houghton (Mich.) Police Department outlines repeated allegations of a sexual nature against Aldrich during his time as an assistant high school hockey coach there after departing both the Blackhawks and Miami University.

Canadian sports network TSN reported Wednesday that Aldrich's behavior while with the Blackhawks, which first became public in May following a lawsuit filed by a former player, was "an open secret," according to a former team marketing official who still works in professional hockey. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said he was told by Blackhawks assistant trainer Jeff Thomas during the summer of 2010 that Aldrich, the team's video coach at the time, had allegedly sexually assaulted two players.

“Brad would routinely befriend young interns and invite them to his apartment in Chicago to watch March Madness basketball and other sports,” the marketing official told TSN in an interview. “I was told to steer clear of him because he had tried something at his apartment on a few players. This was not something that only a few people knew about. The entire training staff, a lot of people knew.

"This was an open secret.”

According to WBEZ, the rapidly evolving developments have thrust Chicago’s NHL franchise into a potentially damning spotlight, driven by lawsuits by two individuals who contend the Blackhawks swept aside claims against Aldrich. The team’s human resources director “requested a search warrant or subpoena to give out any information regarding Brad Aldrich leaving” the team, the Michigan police report said.

Susan Loggans, the Chicago attorney representing the former Blackhawk player and the ex-high school player Aldrich allegedly attacked, described that response to police as “exactly the way they reacted to me when I called them about this case to begin with. They said they are not cooperating at all [with the lawsuits]. ‘It didn’t happen. It’s not true.’ ”

In disturbing and explicit detail, the police report outlines ways in which Aldrich would allegedly host teens at his home, where he allowed them to drink. He also allegedly bought alcohol for minors, allowed use of his vehicle and, in the case of the boy he was convicted of attacking, offered a promotion on the school hockey team, WBEZ reported.

Aldrich was convicted of abusing a then-17-year-old hockey player in Houghton, Mich., in 2013. 

A lawyer representing Aldrich ignored a list of questions from the news organization, saying only, “Record of Mr. Aldrich’s conviction [is] a matter of public record. Any publication of untrue material by WBEZ will be treated as libelous.”

Some suspicion followed Aldrich's career path, but Houghton hockey coach Corey Markham told TSN that "no one felt uncomfortable around him." 

“I remember asking 'Why is he here after being with the Blackhawks?' ” Markham said. “Brad’s uncle was an assistant coach on our team and said Brad was just tired of the NHL travel. I was like, ‘Cripes, we have a chance to have a Stanley Cup-winning coach who’s great doing video? Terrific.’ He was family, so we didn’t do any background checks or anything.”

Then one morning in mid-2013, Markham was summoned to Houghton’s police station and told about Aldrich’s assault of the 17-year-old high school hockey player for which he was later convicted.

“I felt sick,” Markham said. “My biggest advice to other coaches is to ask questions. The biggest thing for me was why he left the Blackhawks. Find out the reason why someone leaves a job like that before you take them on. Don’t be naïve and accept what you hear.”

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