Brent Sopel: 2010 Blackhawks Players Discussed Alleged Sexual Assault

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Former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel said his 2009-10 teammates should be “telling the truth publicly” about being aware of the allegations of sexual assault against then-video coach Brad Aldrich.

In an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead, the retired NHL veteran said most of the players and coaches knew during the 2010 Western Conference Final that two Blackhawks players had accused Aldrich of sexual assault.

“…I’d say pretty much every player said, ‘Holy s–t’ and was shocked by it,” Sopel said. “We were all in the same dressing room. It was something that was discussed for at least two or three days. [Then head coach Joel] Quenneville was in the same office as [Aldrich]. We heard about it.”

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The Blackhawks are facing two lawsuits related to Aldrich. One from a former player who says the team covered up Aldrich’s abuse and another from a former high school hockey player in Houghton, Michigan, who Aldrich abused three years later in 2013. The second lawsuit says the Blackhawks provided Aldrich with a positive reference, allowing him to remain in hockey and continue assaulting players.

Multiple members of the 2010 Blackhawks have corroborated that then-skills coach Paul Vincent met with team president John McDonough, vice president Al MacIsaac and general manager Stan Bowman ahead of the Western Conference Final in San Jose, California, to discuss calling Chicago police. The front office reportedly declined to do so. Aldrich remained with the club through a successful Stanley Cup Final run and departed the following offseason. He served nine months in prison after pleading guilty to criminal sexual conduct with the high school player in Michigan.

The NHL franchise denies the allegations and is seeking to dismiss both suits.

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Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who, other than Patrick Kane, is the only remaining member of the 2009-10 team still playing for Chicago, recently told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus he was unaware of the allegations against Aldrich until the start of training camp in 2010-11 and refuted that everyone on the team knew, something an unnamed Blackhawks player had previously told The Athletic.

“When that player commented that everybody on the team knew, that wasn’t true,” Toews said. “As far as I know, some guys may have caught whispers of it and some guys were clueless until the next year. I don’t think that was an accurate statement.”

Sopel told Westhead members of the 2009-10 team may have a financial incentive to keep quiet about the alleged cover-up.

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“I understand that doing the right thing is hard,” Sopel said. “A lot of those guys who were on that 2009-10 team are still with the Blackhawks getting paid and they’re either still playing, or in broadcasting or coaching, management or scouting or being an ambassador for the team. That’s why they are not saying anything. Guys want to protect their jobs. But they should still be doing the right thing and telling the truth publicly about what happened.”

Sopel said he assumed “for years” the Blackhawks had contacted local authorities about the allegations. After learning that was not the case, Sopel said he feared the Blackhawks would retaliate against his charity if he went public with what he knew in 2010. The Brent Sopel Foundation raises funds for children with dyslexia, a condition the 44-year-old Canadian has. 

Sopel said players may also struggle to speak openly because of the culture around the sport beginning at the youth level.

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“Other sports like baseball, basketball and football, most of those guys are going to university for at least a few years and growing up a bit more,” Sopel said. “In hockey, we’re moving away from home at 15 to play junior hockey, riding 25 hours on a bus. Our lives are only hockey. That’s it. Everything revolves around the sport. Many guys aren’t equipped to talk about anything else.”

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