Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews strikes wrong chords with comments on Stan Bowman, Kyle BeachBen Popeon October 28, 2021 at 7:31 pm

Jonathan Toews addressed the media Wednesday about the Blackhawks sexual assault scandal. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On a day when the Hawks and the hockey community needed to deliver empathy and demonstrate progress, Toews fell far short on both fronts.

As the hockey world collectively reflected on its flaws and transgressions Wednesday, taking an important step toward improving its culture, Jonathan Toews sounded conversely stuck in time and ignorant to the mood of the day.

Addressing the media after the Blackhawks’ loss to the Maple Leafs — Toews’ first public comments since the sexual assault investigation’s conclusion Tuesday and victim Kyle Beach’s step into the spotlight Wednesday — the Hawks captain struck all the wrong chords.

Toews’ eventual passionate defense of now-disgraced ex-general manager Stan Bowman was the worst of all, but his comments weren’t exactly commendable even before that point.

He first said he didn’t want to “exonerate himself,” but then promptly prioritized emphasizing he didn’t know about former video coach Brad Aldrich’s assault of Beach until training camp the following season, by which point Aldrich was finally out of Chicago (but not done assaulting other people).

Patrick Kane, speaking minutes before, by comparison led by praising Beach, saying it was “very courageous for him to come out and let his name be known to the world after everything he went through.”

Toews recalled hearing the story from a “bunch of guys” talking outside the Sutton Place Hotel on the Near North Side, where the Hawks were holding a meeting before the start of their 2010-11 training camp. But even then, he did “not really” consider taking any action in response.

“I thought what I’d heard was the beginning and the end of it,” Toews said. “Not that it was a joke, but it was something that wasn’t taken super seriously at the time. I thought Brad [Aldrich] being let go or resigning from the organization was the way that it was dealt with. To me, it was water under the bridge.

“Had I been more connected in any way to the situation and known some of the more gory details of it, I’d like to say, yeah, I would’ve acted differently in my role as captain, for sure.”

Toews described Beach as a “happy-go-lucky kid” — the exact same term used by Kane, who apparently knew Beach a bit better than Toews did — but focused more on the facts that Beach “never spent too much time here in Chicago” and that he “hasn’t been in contact [with Beach] for quite some time.”

While sentences of sympathy were scattered about, Toews’ comments carried a subtle yet discernible tone of separation and self-preservation taking precedence over responsibility and remorse.

And Toews’ goal to preserve himself and those most influential to his career — which Beach, his NHL dreams ruined by a cover-up that made him feel like he “didn’t exist,” evidently was not — carried over when he was asked if his opinions of Bowman and also-removed longtime executive Al MacIsaac had changed this week. On that front, Toews’ ignorance shifted from subtle to explicit.

“To me, Stan and Al, make any argument you want, they’re not directly complicit in the activities that happened,” Toews said.

“I just know them as people, and I’ve had a relationship and friendship with them for a long time as being part of the Blackhawks family. People like Al and Stan have made coming to the Blackhawks…one of the special places to play hockey.

“Regardless of mistakes that may have been made, for someone like Stan, who has done so much for the Blackhawks — and Al as well — to lose everything they care about and their livelihoods, as well… I don’t understand how that makes it go away, to just delete them from existence and [say], ‘That’s it, we’ll never hear from them again.'”

(To clarify, the investigation determined Bowman and MacIsaac were indeed involved and complicit in the May 23, 2010, meeting in which Hawks brass determined not to take any actions regarding Aldrich until three weeks later, after the Stanley Cup Final.)

Kane and coach Jeremy Colliton also mentioned their own strong personal relationships with Bowman, but did so in a way that made it clear they nonetheless understood Bowman’s culpability in Beach’s tragedy.

Kane called Bowman’s resignation “necessary” and “right,” albeit with some interspersed couching. Colliton said the actions detailed in the report were “unacceptable” and later apologized, unprompted, for “not being more specific about my sympathy and admiration for the courage of the victims…especially Kyle Beach.”

“It’s up to us, in leadership positions, to do everything we can to protect those without power,” Colliton added.

Meanwhile, Alex DeBrincat — who was 12 years old in 2010, nowhere near the Hawks — impressively withheld no punches when asked about Bowman’s exit, saying it was “a change that needed to happen” and “a good thing we parted ways.”

Yet Toews, despite being the most powerful player in the Hawks’ locker room in both 2010 and 2021, seemingly somehow missed the whole ‘accountability’ memo.

Ultimately, Toews’ careless Wednesday interview won’t cost him his spot on the team, strip him of his captaincy or directly affect him in any significant way. Part of that is because of hockey culture’s aforementioned flaws. Another part is because Toews — as only a player — truly was not as blameworthy in the cover-up as his coaches and managers, despite his misguided defense of them.

On a day when the Hawks and the hockey community needed to deliver empathy and demonstrate progress, however, Toews falling far short on both fronts was disappointing and unsettling.

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