Editor’s note: This article mentions and discusses sexual assault.
Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz lashed out at a pair of reporters asking questions about the organization’s next steps in protecting players after a scandal came to light last year that a team video coach had sexually assaulted a player in 2010.
Wirtz told the reporter, Mark Lazerus of The Athletic, it was “none of your business” at the town hall organized for fans and media to talk about the team’s direction and current search for a new general manager.
Lazerus questioned what steps the organization was taking to ensure what happened to Kyle Beach, then 20 years old, didn’t happen to other players.
“The people who were involved are no longer here,” Wirtz said. “We’re not looking back on 2010. We’re looking forward. And we’re not going to talk about 2010.”
A follow-up from Lazerus prompted a similar response.
“We’re moving forward, that is my answer,” Wirtz said. “Now, what’s your next question?”
Danny Wirtz, who is the Blackhawks CEO, tried to address the line of questioning before being cut off by Rocky Wirtz.
“That’s not of your business. That’s none of your business. What we’re going to do today is our business. I don’t think it’s any of your business,” he said.
When prompted again by the reporter, Wirtz again gave a charged answer.
“Because I don’t think it’s any of your business. You don’t work for the company,” he said, raising his voice.
Here’s the full segment/video. Just ridiculous from Rocky Wirtz. pic.twitter.com/9k9QxKW0gI
— Wally Maz (@WallMaz35) February 3, 2022
“If someone in the company asks that question, we’ll answer it. And I think you should get on to the next subject. We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach. We’re not going to talk about anything that happened. Now we’re moving on. What more do I have to say? Do you want to keep asking the same question, and hear the same answer?”
After the exchange with Lazerus, Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune attempted to follow-up on the questioning.
“I told you to get off the subject,” Wirtz replied. “We’re not going to bring up the report… I told you, we’re moving on. I think you’re out of line to ask that line of questions. Why don’t you ask about something else? Why don’t you ask about the GM search? Why don’t you do something else? Why do you bring up old business?”
And now he goes after @_phil_thompson. Absolutely insane from Rocky Wirtz. Smh. pic.twitter.com/dMHYOHUbkQ
— Wally Maz (@WallMaz35) February 3, 2022
Wirtz later apologized for his behaviour and admitted he “crossed the line” in a statement.
It came three hours after the outburst.
“I want to apologize to the fans and those reporters, and I regret that my response overshadowed the great work this organization is doing to move forward,” the statement read. “We have the right leaders and right processes in place to create a safe environment for our employees and players.”
Wirtz’s lashing drew plenty of attention, most notably from Wayne Gretzky.
“From every point of view, this is just a horrible scenario, horrible situation what happened to that young man,” Gretzky said during an intermission panel on TNT. “But I’m sitting here thinking, as a parent, you’re sitting here going, ‘My son is 18 years old, he’s going to maybe be drafted by that team.’
“I want to know my 18-year-old son is going to be protected.”
The Blackhawks were served with a pair of lawsuits in May of 2021, including one from Beach, alleging the organization did not take allegations of sexual assault from Brad Aldrich, then the team’s video coach, seriously during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks commissioned law firm Jenner & Block to do a full investigation in June of 2021. It showed senior members of the organization failed to act in a timely manner on the Aldrich allegations.
General manager Stan Bowman and hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac resigned after the release of the report. Joel Quenneville, Chicago’s coach at the time, also resigned from his role with the Florida Panthers.
The Blackhawks were fined $2 million by the NHL following the report, and the team settled its lawsuit with Beach in December.