Columnist image
Rick Westhead

TSN Senior Correspondent

|Archive

The mother of a former high school hockey player who was sexually assaulted by one-time Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich says she was overcome with emotion watching Kyle Beach apologize to her son and thank him for filing a police complaint against Aldrich.

Beach, a former Blackhawks player, said in an Oct. 27 interview with TSN that he was sorry he “didn’t do more” to make sure Aldrich was held accountable after telling Blackhawks management in the spring of 2010 that Aldrich abused him.

The Blackhawks allowed Aldrich to remain with the NHL team for three weeks en route to winning the Stanley Cup after learning of the allegations. He was permitted to resign on his own terms and was given a day with the Stanley Cup.

Three years later, Aldrich took up a volunteer coaching position with a high school team in Houghton, Mich. A 16-year-old player, known in court filings as “John Doe 2,” reported to police in 2013 that he'd been sexually assaulted by Aldrich, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced in early 2014 to nine months in jail.

John Doe 2’s mother said she was overwhelmed watching Beach’s interview.

“I just wanted to reach through and hold him…,” she said during a series of interviews with TSN over the past week. “I just wanted to tell him that everything is going to be okay, it’s got to be okay. He’s not at fault for this at all, not at all. He’s a survivor, like my son. Yes, they were victims, but they’re surviving now. And he is so courageous, and we admire him… I just wanted to hold him like I held my son. And tell him I’m sorry. It didn’t have to happen.”

During a press conference last week to discuss Beach’s decision to go public and the Blackhawks’ cover up, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league needed more information before it could commit to providing psychological counselling for John Doe 2, as it has for Beach.

John Doe 2’s mother was angry hearing Bettman’s comments.

“I think [Bettman] needs a new job, that he needs to retire,” she said. “I don’t think he has empathy for kids, or even young adults. And if he needs more information, I got a whole folder full of it here for him he can read. I’ve got the court documents of the conviction. If he needs more information to help my son, I have it. I’m more than willing to scan it and send it over to him…”

John Doe 2’s mother explained how she learned that her son had been raped by Aldrich during a team party in March of 2013.

When she picked up John Doe 2 the morning after the party at the home of a teammate whose parents she later discovered were out of town, he was unusually quiet. In the following weeks, he began showing out-of-character behaviour –  he was moody and had angry outbursts. He and some friends broke into his father’s lakefront cabin. He took his mother’s car for a joy ride even though he didn’t have his driver’s license.

John Doe 2’s mother said when she was doing laundry she went through the pockets of her son’s jeans and discovered an empty bottle of Benadryl.

From there, she went to his bedroom and discovered dozens of more empty Benadryl bottles hidden in shoe boxes. When he returned home from an evening out with his girlfriend, John Doe 2’s mother was waiting for him.

“What are you doing taking drugs?” she asked, holding a handful of empty Benadryl bottles.

She said to her son that his girlfriend deserved better.

“I told him she didn’t deserve to date a loser,” she said. “He never raised his voice, ever to me, and he screamed in my face, ‘Do you want to know, Mom? Do you? Do you want to know why I’m a loser, Mom? Do you want to know why?’ As he yelled in my face I was in complete shock. And that’s when those horrible words came out. He said, ‘Because I was raped, Mom.’ I just held him and screamed, ‘No, no, no.’ That’s all I could say.”

In that moment in September of 2013, John Doe 2’s mother said her life felt like it was over.

“No parent wants to experience that,” she said.

John Doe 2’s mother said it’s hard to process what’s happened to her family over the past eight years.

Her mind drifts to her son’s early love for hockey, to the years after he learned to skate as a three-year-old and skating around the rink with the help of a chair or an orange cone.

Living in northern Michigan, John Doe 2 became a fan of the Detroit Red Wings. He admired star centre Steve Yzerman’s grit and skill and goalie Dominik Hasek’s flair for stealing the show during big games.

“He had huge amounts of hockey cards, almost every player you could think of – probably 10, 15, 20 of the same person,” she said.

John Doe 2’s mother says her son still occasionally watches NHL hockey games. At times, he even tunes in to see the Blackhawks on TV.

“He actually watched a couple of Chicago games recently,” she said. “He’s basically not even really watching the game; he’s watching the stands. They need to feel this too. You know the stands, there’s not as many people there, and hopefully this is part of the reason why…”

Lawyers for the Blackhawks and John Doe 2 are in settlement talks, although the NHL team is still trying to have his lawsuit dismissed. It’s unclear how the litigation will unfold.