Former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Brad Aldrich holds the Stanley Cup amid students at Hancock High School in Hancock, Michigan September 14, 2010. Before arriving at the school as a volunteer coach, Aldrich had been cleared to resign from the Blackhawks over player sexual assault charges. (David Archambeau/The Daily Mining Gazette via AP)
FILE - Ferris State players hold hockey sticks before an NCAA hockey game against the Miami RedHawks, Oct. 18, 2019, in Oxford, Ohio.  Before arriving at the University of Miami in Ohio, as director of hockey operations, Brad Aldrich had been authorized to resign from the Blackhawks following accusations of sexual assault on a player.  A November 2012 sexual assault allegation against Aldrich in Miami led to his resignation.  (AP Photo/Aaron Doster, File)FILE – Ferris State players hold hockey sticks before an NCAA hockey game against the Miami RedHawks, Oct. 18, 2019, in Oxford, Ohio. Before arriving at the University of Miami in Ohio, as director of hockey operations, Brad Aldrich had been authorized to resign from the Blackhawks following accusations of sexual assault on a player. A November 2012 sexual assault allegation against Aldrich in Miami led to his resignation. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster, File)

When Brad Aldrich brought the Stanley Cup back to northern Michigan, it made headlines in a community that proudly calls itself the birthplace of professional hockey.

Standing in the bleachers of a high school gymnasium, the former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach hoisted the championship trophy above his head as dozens of students looked on. If they worked hard, he promised that day in the fall of 2010, they could achieve the same kind of success.

Three years later, after Aldrich pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting one of the high school hockey players he volunteered to coach, anger and embarrassment over the case left many Houghton County residents eager to forget.

But weeks after the Blackhawks resolved a pair of lawsuits accusing the franchise of covering up Aldrich after a similar allegation by player Kyle Beach in 2010, nasty questions raised by the scandal continue, not just in Chicago, but far beyond. .

“It’s one of the biggest black eyes in NHL history and it’s because of a kid in our area,” said longtime Houghton hockey coach Corey Markham. Highschool.

Hockey and community life are intertwined in Houghton County, and Aldrich comes from one of its best-known families. His father, Mike Aldrich, was the longtime equipment manager for the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, and his uncle was a hockey manager and assistant coach at Houghton. Prior to the Blackhawks, Brad Aldrich himself coached youth hockey.

In the end, however, none of that mattered.

“If we had known (that was) the reason he was fired with the Blackhawks, he wouldn’t have been working with our high school kids and stuff like that, Markham said. “So it’s very disappointing that they didn’t warn anyone.”

Attempts by the AP to reach Brad Aldrich, now 39, were unsuccessful.

After resigning from his post in Chicago, Aldrich worked or volunteered for USA Hockey, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Miami in Ohio before returning to his native Michigan.

Spokespersons for USA Hockey and Notre Dame said the organizations have not received any complaints about Aldrich. But trouble resurfaces in Miami.

Aldrich worked three week-long hockey camps in Miami before being hired as director of hockey operations in July 2012, according to a report by an outside law firm commissioned by the school.

Aldrich did not provide any references on his resume, according to the report. Then-coach Rico Blasi recalled that he and his team had received “favorable information” from Notre Dame coaches.

The law firm’s report details two sexual assault allegations against Aldrich in Miami. The first, in November 2012, led to his resignation. The second wasn’t filed until August 2018, when a former student said he was sexually assaulted by Aldrich around the same time. None of the allegations have been prosecuted.

The man who made the 2018 allegation is one of three people currently considering legal action against the Blackhawks over the team’s handling of the case, said Christopher Cortese, a Chicago attorney representing the men. .

They include a former Blackhawks organization player who told investigators he received two sexually explicit text messages from Aldrich during the 2010 playoffs. Cortese said he also represented Paul Vincent, a former Blackhawks coach. Blackhawks, who said he encouraged team management to take the players’ allegations to the police. Vincent and the player believe they were blacklisted by the franchise after the allegations against Aldrich came to the team’s attention, the attorney said.

Cortese told the AP on Thursday that his firm was preparing lawsuits while continuing discussions with the team. The Blackhawks did not immediately respond to a message left by the AP seeking comment. The potential litigation was first reported by TSN.

Shortly after the first allegation in Miami, Blasi held a team meeting to announce that Aldrich was gone.

“He said just if any of you have his numbers, delete his numbers, don’t get in touch with him. He’s not on our team anymore,” Taylor Richart, a former defender, said. Miami team.

Blasi, now a coach at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, did not return messages seeking comment.

“Nobody’s happy with what happened with the Blackhawks,” said Bryon Paulazzo, who played for the Miami team and remembers Aldrich’s brief tenure and mysterious departure. “It’s a terrible situation and it shouldn’t have happened.”

In Houghton, a close-knit and remote community on a bay that feeds Lake Superior, the pain lingers.

Hockey is a big deal in Houghton. On the downtown waterfront, Dee Stadium stands as the site where professional hockey began in the early 1900s, with a hockey history museum documenting the sport’s local roots. A mile away, the nationally ranked Michigan Tech University men’s team averages more than 2,500 fans for their games.

“It’s like a religion,” said John Ryynanen, a 50-year-old father of seven who grew up in the area.

“You can imagine a small community like this, a very well-known family. Something like this happens, it’s a shock,” he said.

Aldrich returned home in September 2010 with the newly won championship trophy loaned to him by the Blackhawks.

“Success isn’t easy but it’s fun,” he told students at Hancock Central High School, across a canal from Houghton. “With hard work and a lot of dedication, which is probably the most important thing, you can do it.”

When he returned in late 2012, his uncle, an assistant coach at Houghton High, asked Markham if he would be interested in Brad Aldrich working with the players.

Young Aldrich had worked as a substitute teacher while a student at Northern Michigan University, simultaneously coaching traveling youth hockey teams. He had also worked as a video intern for the San Jose NHL franchise, before joining the Blackhawks.

“I had known Brad since he was little,” Markham said. “So I thought how great it was for us to have a Stanley Cup-winning coach who will be in town and help us.

Months after his return, Brad Aldrich was accused of sexually assaulting one of Houghton’s players after a party where teenagers drank alcohol. He pleaded guilty to fourth degree felony sexual assault and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

The Michigan Amateur Hockey Association said Aldrich was a volunteer coach with Marquette Junior Hockey Corp. from 2001 to 2005. MAHA said it had not received any complaints or reports of misconduct from Aldrich.

A former Houghton player, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, said many people in the community “just wanted to move on, pretend it’s not happening. wasn’t produced, because it’s embarrassing”.

The attorney who filed the lawsuits against the Blackhawks put some of the blame on the NHL franchise.

“The Blackhawks gave Mr. Aldrich the real Stanley Cup to take to Houghton to show off,” attorney Susan Loggans wrote in a letter to team attorneys. “The cup bore the name of Mr. Aldrich. This communication alone attests to Mr. Aldrich’s fitness as a coach.

Aldrich’s name on the Cup was branded last year after Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz wrote to Hall of Fame Chairman Lanny McDonald calling Aldrich’s behavior “unforgivable” and saying the team had made a mistake in submitting his name.

The law firm hired by the Blackhawks found that franchise executives largely ignored Beach’s allegations. Aldrich told investigators the meeting was consensual.

Facing questions Wednesday for the first time since the cabinet report was released in October, an angry Wirtz refused to respond to the team’s handling of the sexual assault allegations.

“We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach” he said. “We’re not going to talk about everything that happened. Now we move on. What more do I have to say?

Wirtz, 69, ended up apologizing for his reaction later that night.

Looking back, Michael Makinen, who prosecuted the Michigan case, still questions his community’s willingness to trust Aldrich.

“Leaving the Chicago Blackhawks and volunteering as a coach in a county of 35,000 people doesn’t make sense,” Makinen said.

“There are many people in the region who believe that our region is the best in the world. They accept someone telling them, ‘I want to come here because the way of life is so good.’ … In my position, I’m a little more skeptical.

Jay Cohen, The Associated Press

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