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Duncan Keith on Chicago Blackhawks Fiasco

Earlier today Duncan Keith sat at the podium and answered questions for over 13 minutes in regards to the horrific actions of former Chicago Blackhawks coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. Yesterday, Reid Schar from Jenner & Block, released his report on the Blackhawks response to allegations of sexual misconduct by Aldrich.

You can read the entire report here. Content Warning: The article discusses graphic topics including rape and sexual abuse.

Here is the transcript of Keith’s entire press conference. He spoke about what he knew, and didn’t know, about the allegations, about Aldrich, the Blackhawks’ response and more.

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Ryan Rishaug: Your initial thoughts from what you saw yesterday?

Duncan Keith: First of all, your thoughts go to the person who was affected by this. It took a lot for him to speak out and bring this forward. That took a lot of courage. My thoughts immediately go to him, and what he had to endure at such a young age in his career. I feel terrible about that.

It’s still not easy to see what’s happened, yesterday, regardless of everything. My memories of being in Chicago, especially at that time…The players in that room, it was a special group. A championship team. In that’s sense, it’s too bad that that happened.

But the bigger, more important issue is the person who was affected by that.

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Rishaug: What did you know about these allegations in the Cup Final and when?

Keith: I didn’t know anything. Those playoffs, thinking back, my whole focus was right in the moment. Doing what we had to do as a team as a group. As one of the leaders on that team — we had many leaders — my focus was trying to win hockey games. Win the playoffs.

I know there was talk that players knew, and maybe some guys did know. But not everybody knew. Maybe that’s hard for people to understand, but that’s the truth: Not everybody knew. I didn’t know that that was happening, and that those things happened to that person.

Rishaug: One suggestion in the report is that there were homophobic slurs on the practice ice. I know Black Aces don’t always practice with the main group, but did you hear that or know about it?

Keith: No, not at all. Never heard one guy say that. Never in practice, nothin’. I heard it too, what you said. I’m not sure if that was years after, that he had to deal with that, or what. But I never heard that for the rest of that season, or for years after that.

Jason Gregor: Brent Sopel and Nick Boynton were on record saying everyone knew. In the report it said they couldn’t give more details, but there was a specific timeline about the 2010/2011 training camp and it mentioned the leadership group. Did you hear anything at that time?

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Keith: After the season, the next year, I questioned why Brad Aldrich wasn’t there any more. I was told it was because the NHL schedule was too much. That he went to college. I found it odd, that he was (leaving) a championship team. But it is a tough schedule, with lots of travel, and tiring, So, I thought, Each to their own.

**This is new information I hadn’t heard. The fact the organization opted not to tell players why Aldrich left is another terrible decision.**

Gregor: Did you have any awkward interactions with Brad Aldrich?

Keith: No. Not at all. He seemed like he was a nice guy. Those were my interactions. He was the video coach. I didn’t really have much interaction with him in the first place.

Gregor: Have you reached out to John Doe?

Keith: I honestly don’t even know who it is. I’ve heard multiple different names, but those are just guesses. I don’t know who it is to reach out to that person.

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***Rick Westhead will interview John Doe tonight on TSN and John Doe will reveal his identity and tell his story. I applaud him for having the courage to come forward. He has nothing to be ashamed of.**

Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Can you clarify when you found out? When did it come to light for you?

Keith: Basically when the guy was suing. Then I started hearing things and finding out more information. You hear rumours and stuff, but it wasn’t until it was made public.

Nugent-Bowman: Were you interviewed by Jenner and Block?

Keith: No.

Nugent-Bowman: Do you think what has happened taints or changes how people should view that 2010 championship?

Keith: That’s a tough question. It’s obviously serious allegations and it’s serious what happened. But at the same time, it was a special group of players in that room that battled and competed and deserved that championship. In that sense, for me, it’s tough to see that. I guess people have to form their own thoughts and opinions on it. To me, it’s a championship team and it’s a special group of players to be a part of.

Mark Spector: Ten years later the Blackhawks said they didn’t handle this right. Dave Tippett said earlier that they (Chicago) probably would handle things different if they had to do it again. As a leader, would you have handled it different or hoped that you would have?

Keith: I wouldn’t have handled anything differently. There was nothing to handle that I knew about, especially going through the playoffs when that happened. I didn’t know what was going on. If it happened now and it was something that I was made aware of, for sure; you’d have to say something. There has to be something done. It’s obviously unacceptable. It’s brutal what that guy had to endure and deal with – and probably still deals with today.

Spector: Can you let readers and listeners in on how much the team is buffered during that time? How much are players insulated from outside noise during the Finals?

Keith: You’re so focused on what you have to do. You’re in the Western Conference finals and the finals and at that point in the season, you’re pretty dialled in as a player, you’ve been playing close to 100 games by then. Your focus is exactly what you have to do as a group and exactly what you are trying to accomplish on the ice. There is not a lot of things that come in the way and get in the way of your focus.

Certainly if I was aware of that and multiple players were aware of what was going on, that might be a different story. It would be a different story. I still think if something like that happens though, you’d be able to talk to somebody and bring that up and make it known that something needs to happen here, even if you’re in the conference finals or the finals, you can still play your game and get that out in the open and make sure it’s taken care of.

Rob Tychkowski: The players didn’t know at the time, but management did know. Is there any resentment towards management because they didn’t handle it properly at the time?

Keith: I’m not going to sit here and say there’s resentment because of the way they handled it. I don’t know why it was handled that way, I can’t speak for them, but obviously, it should have been handled differently.

Tychkowski: They cleaned house at the top in Chicago. Others are being talked to. Does the culpability stop at the top or will it funnel down to other coaches?

Keith: I don’t really know. I didn’t read through the whole report. At the end of the day, it sounds like they’re going to do their due diligence and see what comes out of that.

Ryan Rishaug: Do you think in today’s NHL can players feel more comfortable to come forward with this sort of thing than maybe it was then?

Keith: I think so. I just think in general, just talking about it now and the more it’s talked about the more it’s out in the open I think that’s a step for people to feel comfortable, not just hockey players but people in general who’ve had to deal with sexual assault. I definitely think it’s a different era and a different generation. It feels more open. Having said that, I don’t know, you hope that would be the case that guys would feel comfortable.

Gregor: John Doe and Black Ace 1 in the report made references that that Aldrich was a creep. Did you have any sense he was or hear that he was a creep?

Keith: No. He seemed like a normal guy. Obviously he wasn’t, he did some horrible things to people. But I never thought anything like that.

Final Thought…

I’m interested to hear what Kyle Beach (*edited now that he has courageously come forward*) has to say today with Rick Westhead tonight on TSN. I hope telling his story gives him another level of healing.

The Blackhawks’ upper management did such an incredibly poor job of handling the entire situation. They not only erred in not firing Brad Aldrich immediately, but actually made things so much worse by giving him a good recommendation for his next job, and then lying to players about why he left.

Just tell the truth. The frustrating thing is had they just told the truth the situation could have been much better. It wouldn’t have changed what initially happened to Beach, but it would have made the next months and years much easier for him, I would assume.

Our entire society needs to learn from this. This is not just an NHL issue. It is a societal issue. We need to listen to victims and believe them, and most importantly if we hear about a predator we have to make the tough decision (and the right one) and tell the police or someone who is willing and able to stop it.