Before Hawks fall to Toronto, Wirtz delivers message to team
A tumultuous week continued for the Blackhawks as players and coaches were forced to deal with the fallout of a sexual abuse scandal that cost Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac their jobs Tuesday.
Less than 24 hours later, the team was addressed by CEO Danny Wirtz at the United Center as they prepared to host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Coach Jeremy Colliton said Wirtz's message was that the entire franchise is "here for you, the family's behind us, the organization is behind us and we're going to do everything we can to move forward here."
How easy or difficult that will be remains to be seen.
After the Hawks lost their seventh straight game to start the season Wednesday -- 3-2 in overtime to Toronto -- Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane talked about the fallout from the scandal. Neither had seen Kyle Beach come forward on TSN as the player who was abused by Brad Aldrich in 2010. That interview took place about 30 minutes before puck drop against the Maple Leafs.
Kane and Toews both said they did not know about the assault until recently and also denied hearing homophobic slurs hurled at Beach at any time.
"Not that it was a joke, but it was something that wasn't taken super seriously at the time," Toews said. "I thought Brad being let go or resigning from the organization was the way it was dealt with. To me, it was water under the bridge.
"Had I been more connected with the situation and known some of the more gory details of it, I would like to say, yeah, I would've acted differently in my role as captain, for sure."
The report laid out details about Quenneville and then-CEO John McDonough talking about how the allegations should be tabled while the Hawks attempted to win the Stanley Cup. McDonough did not report the matter to human resources until June 14, four days after the Hawks claimed the title.
Toews, taken third overall in the 2006 draft, was in his third season with the Hawks when the assault occurred. He worked closely with Bowman, MacIsaac and Quenneville for many years and was asked if the revelations changed his opinion of any them.
"Stan and Al, make any argument you want, they're not directly complicit in the activities that happened," Toews said. "I just know them as people and have had a relationship and friendship with them for a long time. ...
"How the situation went down, what the timeline was, what they knew, I can't really comment on that. It's obviously a tough day, regardless of the mistakes that may have been made for someone like Stan -- who's done so much for the Blackhawks -- and Al as well to lose everything they care about and their livelihoods as well.
"I don't understand how that makes it go away, to just delete them from existence and that's it -- we'll never hear from them again. They're good people."
Colliton did not want to go into detail about his conversation with Bowman on Tuesday, but it was obviously difficult for the fourth-year coach to see his "mentor" depart. Bowman hired Colliton to coach the Rockford IceHogs, then tabbed him as Quenneville's successor in November 2018.
"I feel bad for him, obviously," Colliton said. "What's in the report, it's tough to read. We don't stand for that. The Stan that I know and I've been dealing with, that's not his values. So it's hard to separate the two.
"I just think that you feel for him, while also understanding hockey culture, we need to make sure we're doing the right things."
In Wednesday's game, the Hawks (0-5-2) lost despite taking a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. William Nylander won it for Toronto (3-4-1) when he slid the puck through Kevin Lankinen's legs at 1:58 of overtime.
It will be interesting to see how the organization moves on. Connor Murphy had a message for fans who aren't abandoning the team.
"I would say, thank you for sticking with us," he said. "We're going to work our hardest to move forward and come together and play and make them proud. We're all very honored to be representing Chicago on this team.
"We're going to show up every day, put our best foot forward to getting better, growing as individuals and a team and we'll get through tough times to make them better."