Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff says he will co-operate with an ongoing investigation after two former Chicago Blackhawks players claim they were sexually abused by a video coach in 2010 — only to have the organization cover it up.
Cheveldayoff, who was the assistant GM in the Windy City at the time, made his first public comments on the matter involving Brad Aldrich on Thursday, more than a month after it first started making headlines around the hockey world.
"I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks," Cheveldayoff said in a written statement released by the Jets moments before he was set to meet with the media.
"After confirming that I had no prior knowledge of anything, I had no further involvement. As this is a legal matter before the courts, I will not be making any further comment; however, to the extent I am contacted by investigators in this matter, I will co-operate to the best of my ability and knowledge."
In a civil lawsuit now before the courts, one of the players claims the Blackhawks refused to do anything about the scandal. Then-skills coach Paul Vincent recently told TSN he informed then-president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, executive Al MacIsaac and skills coach James Gary about the incident, but they rejected his request to report the incident to the police. In the lawsuit, the player claims Gary suggested he was to blame.
Former associate coach John Torchetti and former defencemen Brent Sopel and Nick Boynton have all confirmed publicly it was well-known within the organization. An independent probe led by a former federal prosecutor has been launched, although the NHL has refused to say if the findings will be made public.
Cheveldayoff was not reportedly present for that internal team meeting where the matter was allegedly discussed. Aldrich left the organization after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup that year, only to be given a glowing letter of reference. He went on to molest a high school hockey player, for which he was convicted and jailed.
Bowman, MacIsaac and Gary are still employed by Chicago. McDonough was fired last year by Chairman W. Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz. Cheveldayoff left Chicago in 2011 to take the helm of the Jets after they moved from Atlanta.
"Obviously I issued a statement here just moments before the press conference here and will stand by that statement," Cheveldayoff said, when asked for more clarity on the Zoom call Thursday about when he specifically learned about the claims against Aldrich and what, if anything, he did about it.
"These are very serious allegations and you never take them lightly. Obviously it’s a matter that’s in front of the courts. That’s essentially why I put the statement out and we’ll go from there. If the investigators, if there’s an opportunity for me to meet with them, I definitely will."
Bowman also broke his silence on Thursday, saying the team takes the matter "very seriously." He pledged to co-operate with the probe, but refused to answer specific questions.
"The review itself is something that I do plan to participate in and I’m going to give it my full co-operation," Bowman said. "We have some experts that we brought in. From my understanding these are well-respected people in the legal community, and I intend to fully co-operate with them."
Former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, now with Florida, has also released a statement saying he "will support and participate in the independent review." Marc Bergevin, who was the director of player personnel during that 2009-10 season and is currently the GM of the Montreal Canadiens, was asked about it during the Stanley Cup Final and denied any knowledge or culpability.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.