The Chicago Blackhawks are the center of the hockey world right now for off-ice reasons. The coverup of alleged sexual assault by a former assistant coach has led to the exit of several executives and speculation that former employees, such as Joel Quenneville, might lose their current jobs.
What’s happening with the Chicago Blackhawks is disgusting, disgraceful, and sad. It’s also felt like a bit of betrayal to those of us who put our money and our time into the team during the Stanley Cup run. It’s causing fans to re-think our relationship with the team.
Coincidentally, I put a Blackhawks baseball cap on when I went running an errand Tuesday morning. It’s a favorite hat of mine to wear when I’m feeling too lazy to comb my hair before going out in public and I got it as the giveaway while attending a regular-season game during the first Cup-winning season.
I wasn’t thinking about the press conference scheduled later in the day, the one that would lay out the findings of a report on how the Blackhawks handled the Bradley Aldrich matter. I was just being lazy. But the fact is, the hat is one of several pieces of Blackhawks-branded clothing I own and I now wonder how I will feel about wearing it in public if I can even bring myself to do so.
It is hard to cheer on the Chicago Blackhawks right now after everything that happened.
Will I still play video games as the Blackhawks? Will I still watch games or attend them in person? Are my memories of the Cup run now stained? What about the excitement I felt attending the championship parades? Or the time I came across the Cup on display at a Chicago White Sox game?
Being a sports fan does require some, shall we say, moral flexibility. No team is immune from hiring players/coaches/executives who act in morally repugnant ways. I root for a college football team that presently employs a head coach who allowed a student assistant to die because he had the assistant filming a practice in bad weather.
That same coach took that same team to a national championship and he was coaching players who were accused of being involved in a sexual assault – an assault that later led to the alleged victim taking her own life. I’m not sure I am brave enough in my convictions to abandon the hockey team I’ve rooted for my entire life. I didn’t during the Patrick Kane allegations.
I might justify this by saying the franchise deserves a chance at redemption and/or that the people involved in the coverup are no longer with the Hawks but that’s just a justification. A rationalization. Truth is, I enjoy hockey and the feeling of rooting for a winning team, no matter how far the Hawks are themselves from winning – too much to let go so easily.
Yet I am still disgusted. The Blackhawks covered up the Aldrich situation out of fear of distractions ruining a playoff run. Yet, they could’ve easily let him go quietly without it being a distraction – he wasn’t a household name.
Not only did they put winning above all else but they showed they couldn’t even manage to properly handle inexcusable behavior by a relatively obscure employee without making it a distraction themselves. Mismanagement of the situation begat further mismanagement. Had they done the right thing upfront, no coverup would’ve been necessary.
The whole thing is galling. And while the pain we feel as fans is nothing in comparison to the true victims – the John Does – who actually were assaulted, we are left feeling duped. The Blackhawks weren’t just winning but they presented an image of winning with class.
Now we the faithful, the ones who spent money on tickets and time watching the games, must contend with the knowledge that our memories are tainted. And that if we should choose to continue to root for this team, this franchise, we will never quite trust it again, not in the same way.