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Court denies Blackhawks' request to dismiss suit filed by second ‘John Doe’

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Content Warning: The following article contains references to sexual assault.

An Illinois state court judge in Chicago has rejected the Chicago Blackhawks’ motion to dismiss a negligence lawsuit filed by a former player who alleges he was sexually assaulted during the 2009-10 Stanley Cup season and playoffs by former team video coach Brad Aldrich.

The judge, Thomas Cushing, rejected the Blackhawks’ motion on March 13, according to court documents obtained by TSN.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 2 in Cook County Court in Chicago, nearly two years after former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach settled his own litigation with the franchise over similar claims about Aldrich's behaviour.

The former player, who is referred to in court documents as “John Doe,” was called up to Chicago during the 2009-10 season and playoffs to serve as a “Black Ace,” a prospect who could be available to play for the team if needed.

The Blackhawks wrote in their filing that the player filed his lawsuit 13 years after he was allegedly assaulted by Aldrich. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years, the team wrote.

The player’s lawyers argued that the limitations period was moot because the player didn’t learn until more recently about the behind-the-scenes actions of Blackhawks officials in 2010.

Jason Friedl, an attorney with the Chicago law firm Romanucci & Blandin, said in an interview with TSN Monday that a trial in the case, if it gets to that point, probably won’t happen before mid-2026.

Friedl said he plans to subpoena Beach to testify.

“I’m sure that it would be difficult for Kyle, but I’m also sure he would be able to testify about how this was a problem that extended beyond his own situation,” Friedl said. 

According to court documents, the plaintiff and the Blackhawks face a deadline of May 2 to turn over relevant documents to one another. Subpoenas must be issued before July 2 and depositions completed by Nov. 4.

Friedl, who declined to say whether the NHL team has made a settlement offer, said he’s also heard from other potential claimants connected to the Blackhawks and Aldrich, but no one who has yet been prepared to file litigation against the NHL team.

A Blackhawks spokesperson did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Friedl’s client alleges in his claim that Aldrich sent him harassing text messages, attempted to make him watch pornography with him, offered to pay for him to receive sexual favours from a masseuse if Aldrich could watch, physically assaulted him by grabbing him and “grinding” his genitals against him, and attempted to join him and a woman in a sexual encounter.

The filing says that the player allegedly told then-team mental skills coach Jim Gary about his interactions with Aldrich and that Gary told him he “should move on with his life.”

The team wrote in its motion to dismiss that even if Gary did tell the player to move on with his life, “these facts do not constitute extreme and outrageous conduct. Gary’s alleged comments were no doubt insensitive and inappropriate, but they were not so severe that no reasonable man come be expected to endure them…”

By May 16, 2010, the Blackhawks received specific reports of Aldrich allegedly sexually assaulting players, according to court records.

When Beach and at least one other player told Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent about Aldrich's behaviour, Vincent reported the allegations to his superiors and said he planned to report them to police.

"In response," the court records say, "[the] Blackhawks called coach Vincent in for a meeting with Blackhawks senior vice president Al MacIsaac, who, in response to coach Vincent stating that he intended to go to police, ordered him not to report the assaults."

Aldrich's inappropriate behaviour continued after that point when he sent a player a sexually explicit text message, the court records say.

Aldrich resigned from the team on June 16, 2010.

“A one-month delay in investigating and removing an adult accused of misconduct is neither extreme nor outrageous,” the Blackhawks wrote in their filing.

The Blackhawks, who were fined $2 million by the NHL for mismanaging Beach's sexual assault allegations against Aldrich, have overhauled their leadership team and say they have introduced new reporting mechanisms for misconduct and training for employees.

Beach’s lawsuit, first filed in May 2021, shook the hockey world and led to the team commissioning Chicago law firm Jenner & Block to investigate the allegations.

On Oct. 27, 2021, the firm released a report outlining how Blackhawks management and coaching staff declined to report sexual assault allegations against Aldrich to police in May of 2010. 

Blackhawks team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, and MacIsaac all left the organization following the revelations in October 2021. At about the same time, Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks coach in 2009-10, stepped down from his coaching position with the Florida Panthers. He has not worked in the NHL since.

After Aldrich left the NHL team, he was given a day with the Stanley Cup, moved between hockey jobs, and in 2013 worked as a volunteer coach in Houghton, Mich., where he sexually assaulted a then-16-year-old player. He was sentenced to nine months in jail in that case.