Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin says he was unaware of sexual assault allegations against a Chicago assistant coach during his time with the club.
An unidentified former Chicago player has alleged in a lawsuit against the team that then-assistant coach Bradley Aldrich sexually assaulted him in 2010 during a playoff run to a Stanley Cup title and that the team did nothing after he informed a now-retired employee.
Bergevin was Chicago’s director of pro personnel at the time.
“It came out recently. There was a meeting that I heard that was done in Chicago. I was not part of any meeting, and I was not part of any decision based on that,” Bergevin said Sunday before the Canadiens travelled to Tampa, Fla., for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
“And I was not aware of anything going on at the time. So you can go on the record with that.”
After leaving Chicago, former assistant coach Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders, Chicago public radio station WBEZ reported in a series of stories based on legal filings, police records and interviews.
Inaction by Chicago helped enable Aldrich to go on and assault the Michigan student, and possibly others, said Susan Loggans, the former player’s attorney.
“This entire man’s life has been destroyed,” Loggans told WBEZ. “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.”
I know what the team did to cover this up and coming forward was the right thing to do.— Former Chicago skills coach Paul Vincent
The lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Chicago player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 US in damages is referred to in the document as “John Doe.”
‘A weight lifted off of me’
According to TSN, two Chicago players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behaviour by Aldrich.
Vincent told the news outlet he urged team executives, including team president John McDonough and GM Stan Bowman, to report the allegations to Chicago police but that his request was rejected.
An attorney for Aldrich told WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, Chicago said the allegations directed at the organization were groundless.
The eight-page suit alleges Aldrich, then a video coach for Chicago, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It alleges Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him. The allegations have not yet been tested in court.
WBEZ obtained police records for its latest report this week that indicated Aldrich faced other allegations of unwanted sexual contact, including when he worked at Miami University after leaving Chicago.
The Associated Press left messages with Chicago and the NHL on Thursday seeking comment. In the May statement to WBEZ, team spokesman Adam Rogowin said the team was confident it would “be absolved of any wrongdoing.” Vincent did not return emails seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, the former player reported the allegation at the time to the team’s then-mental skills coach, James F. Gary. It says Gary “convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault.”
Gary, who has since retired, told WBEZ he didn’t know “anything about this.” Vincent told TSN he had asked Gary to follow up, a request that preceded his meeting with team executives.
Convicted of assaulting former student
The online Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry as of Thursday said Aldrich was 38 and gave an address for him in Hancock, Mich., some 644 kilometres north of Chicago.
The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against Chicago on May 26, saying the team provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.
Loggans also represents the former student, referred to as “John Doe 2” in the lawsuit. She confirmed to WBEZ that her client was the student Aldrich was convicted of assaulting.
Houghton police records obtained by WBEZ said Aldrich resigned as director of hockey operations at Miami University of Ohio in 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult.” The school said it has launched an internal investigation.
The records cited repeated allegations from Aldrich’s time as an assistant high school hockey coach in Houghton. The precise timing of his departure from Chicago is unclear.
The police records say investigators reached out to Chicago about Aldrich but its front office would confirm only that he was once an employee.
A lawyer for Aldrich responded to the WBEZ report by noting that his conviction was a matter of public record and added that “any publication of untrue material by WBEZ will be treated as libelous.”
“Everything that I have read in the WBEZ report is 100 per cent accurate,” Loggans told The Associated Press Thursday.