Just hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly held their availability to go over several topics. As you can imagine, the situation with the Chicago Blackhawks took center stage.
Bettman Responds to Questions About Bradley Aldrich
As reported by TSN, the Athletic and other outlets, multiple former Blackhawks’ players have alleged they were sexually assaulted by former video coach Bradley Aldrich back in 2010. When the question period of the press conference opened, five of the first questions were in regards to Aldrich.
We will show you the five questions that were asked and how Bettman/Daly responded.
Question: “Gary, the Chicago Blackhawks launched an investigation today into allegations into Bradley Aldrich. When did the league learn of these allegations and when did the league at some point figure out that the Blackhawks perhaps did not handle this correctly?”
Bettman: “Well first of all we learned relatively recently considering that the allegations I think at least from what we know publicly are 10 years old or thereabouts. And we believed that it was appropriate in the first instance for there to be an independent investigation which has been commissioned previously by the Blackhawks and is underway. This is obviously a matter of litigation. We’ll await the findings from the independent investigation which is being conducted by Jenner and Block which has no connection to either the Blackhawks or the league and it’s being spearheaded by a former federal prosecutor. So we’ll await the results of the investigation and then decide what if anything needs to be done from our standpoint.”
Question: “I’m just wondering. Can you clarify with the Blackhawks’ situation, did you guys coordinate with the team that is the league on their investigation or how did that play out as opposed to maybe doing one independently on your own?”
Bettman: “It’s being done independently by a law firm that’s been retained. We’re satisfied that the retention has been appropriate and in the first instance we’re going to wait and see what the results are from this investigation and then we’ll determine what if anything we need to do to follow up.”
Question: “Gary you said that you became aware of the allegations against Brad Aldrich relatively recently. When did you specifically become aware of those allegations and how were you made aware of those allegations?”
Bettman: “I think you (Bill Daly) should answer that question.”
Daly: “Yeah I couldn’t give you a specific time period Katie (Strang). As Gary said it was relatively recently. We were made aware of those allegations by counsel for the Chicago Blackhawks.”
Question: “I was curious. Would the NHL consider punishment to the individuals or the Chicago Blackhawks depending on what the review shows?”
Bettman: “All options are available if there’s something that warrants punishment and I think we need to wait and see what the result of the investigation and the litigation that seems to be pending as well. These are allegations, what we know is based on what’s public. And that’s why we’re going to be interested to see what the investigation reveals and doesn’t reveal. And so I think everybody needs to not get ahead of themselves. These are allegations that relate to a period of time that’s quite some time ago and sometimes it’s takes a little bit of time to piece things together. When we get all the information, we will do what is necessary and appropriate at that time.”
Question: “Do you anticipate the findings of that investigation being made public or is that going to stay in house?”
Bettman: “Let us see what the investigation reveals and then we can figure out what comes next. I think everybody’s jumping too far too fast. This is going to be handled appropriately and professionally and done right.”
These questions were asked in order by Stephen Whyno of the AP, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, Katie Strang of the Athletic, Emily Kaplan of ESPN and Mark Lazerus of the Athletic. Good on them to ask these important questions. And now we wait to see where this investigation takes us and what comes next.
Will the NHL Be At The Olympics?
Recall that the league promised the players that if they were able to work everything out, they would be at the Olympics. But when asked where things stood with the Olympics, Bettman proclaimed “We don’t know.” He even went as far as saying they were getting concerned about a potential impact to the upcoming season. So what is the holdup?
According to Daly, “There are a couple of remaining open issues. A lot has to do with the uncertainty of the games, the continued uncertainty of the games with respect to what the rules will be associated with the games whether they’ll be spectators, there won’t be spectators. How the Tokyo games this summer may impact how the Beijing games are run. There are Covid-related insurance issues that are very important to all the relevant parties…I do think we have worked through a lot of the more basic issues. But we continue to be in unchartered territory to a certain extent with respect to the Covid situation and what that means and what it’ll be like come February in Beijing. There’s a lot of uncertainty and unknowns that we’re trying to grapple with and that takes time.”
The league does have two versions of the schedule ready to go. One is with the Olympic break and one is without the break. The league will continue trying to make things work. But the takeaway here is that is a real question still if they’ll be in Beijing. Stay tuned here.
Total Covid-19 Impact From the Season
The league released a timeline of events since the pause of the 2019-20 season and the impact from Covid-19. Here are some of the highlights.
- The NHL administered over 350,000 Covid-19 tests to players and staff.
- There were a total of 12 team shutdowns.
- There were a total of 55 games postponed.
- There were 132 games that were rescheduled.
- A total of 217 players were on the Covid list.
- Of that, 119 players had confirmed positive tests.
- The highest one-day total on the Covid list was 59 players back on Feb 12.
- It took until May 24 to have zero on the Covid list, 132 days after the season started.
Despite these results and challenges, the NHL did negotiate a four-year CBA extension, new TV deals with ESPN and Turner and signed 17 new corporate partners. Everyone from the top down endured a lot. Yet we made the Stanley Cup Final. In the end, that’s worth celebrating.
Related: Canadiens/Lightning Storylines
- ESPN will carry both the Expansion Draft on July 21 and night one of the NHL Draft on July 23. Both events will start at 8 P.M. eastern on ESPN2. Chris Fowler will host the Expansion Draft and John Buccigross will lead the NHL Draft coverage.
- The 2022 All-Star Game will be held in Las Vegas.
- The 2022 NHL Winter Classic will be the St. Louis Blues visiting the Minnesota Wild at Target Field.
- The 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series Game will feature the Lightning visiting the Nashville Predators at Nissan Stadium on Feb 26.
- On women’s hockey, Bettman said that it’s “our hope that the women’s pro landscape can be more unified going forward. At the right time and under the right circumstances we see a role for us.”
- The Carolina Hurricanes were supposed to have an outdoor game but were not part of the next wave of games. Bettman said that timing and logistics were factors but also said the Hurricanes will get a game in the future.
- The 2022 NHL Draft will be held in Montreal.
- The 2022 Heritage Classic will be held in Canada at a site to be determined.
- Bettman said that there will not be jersey ads next year. But helmet sponsors will continue.
- Bettman also confirmed they expect to run on a normal calendar for next season with the season beginning in the first half of October some time.
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I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.