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Jun 20, 2024  |  
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NextImg:With Corey Perry drama, Blackhawks are a cloud franchise

You can’t even say they brought it on themselves. At least, not this time. 

The Blackhawks’ latest journey into darkness — this go-round — is another add-on to the conclave of internal behavior and activities that before 2010 seemed unthinkable for the organization. “Not them! Good guys wear red and black.” (Except when they wear face paint to Chiefs games.) Except they weren’t the good guys. Not then and almost by default not now. 

This time, there was no cover-up. There is no Stanley Cup run hanging in the balance that could be thrown off course if they acknowledge internal scandal in real time.

Corey Perry’s recent “infraction” that forced the Hawks to terminate his contract was something the organization didn’t see coming. You could hear it in general manager Kyle Davidson’s voice during the news conference. The emotions reeking of realness. Until the PR part kicked in.

“As this is an individual personal matter, I will not be able to disclose any details related to the initial reporting, investigation or the findings,” he read.

Though smart legally and the correct thing to do ethically, it was the last thing the Hawks needed. 

They left the door open to bury themselves further as an organization in a place — because of what they already were dealing with before Perry’s misconduct went public — that could be impossible for them to recover from in the foreseeable, generational future.

Even as the right thing to do, this is not the way to play the situation when an entire city and an entire league has trust issues with you. Unfortunately, it’s full disclosure or nothing. Nothing in between.

Because the rumors in this digital day of open thought and wide-open communication that emerge from these situations — especially when unsquashed — seem to turn every situation like this into exactly what it doesn’t need to be. The handling of the crime (or offense when there are no criminal charges on the table) seems to level up to or supersede the incident itself.

Think Penn State, of what Joe Paterno knew and didn’t know, of what he allowed to happen and continue, of what Jerry Sandusky did as his No. 1 assistant coach. Think Celtics and the Ime Udoka situation from last year, of the news conference, of the ineptitude of majority owner Wyc Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens and the entire organization, of what to do, of their indecisiveness and the lack of reasoning or clarity given to the players for the decisions they did make, of the optics. Think Northwestern. 

The Hawks currently have two on their résumé. With a third pending.

Just the ripple effect of the fallout from the Kyle Beach case is enough to crumble a professional organization. The fact that in 2010, the organization knowingly, as the lawsuit says, put “Stanley Cup championship aspirations ahead of the welfare of its players” by waiting three weeks before internally investigating a sexual-assault allegation made against a member of their coaching staff (Brad Aldrich) who, once he left the Hawks, was convicted of sexually abusing a minor three years later in Michigan and is now on the state’s sex-offender registry, would seem to be something you’d want to disappear as a member of the NHL.

But it didn’t. Even as the case was settled two years ago and the free fall came in the form of the exit of GM Stan Bowman, a $2 million fine imposed on the Hawks from the NHL and the removal of other executives due to the findings of an independent investigation of that assault claim, a new “John Doe” sexual-assault charge (again, against Aldrich from 2010 while with the Hawks) was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County just last month. 

And now this. The Perry drama. Even as his statement/apology Thursday cited mental health and alcohol abuse as primary sources, that didn’t help much in providing any clarity of what internal policies he violated or the level of inappropriateness of his behavior. That allows public speculation, public blame and shame to continue to run rampant, metaphorically becoming a gunmetal gray cloud that not only hovers heavy over the Hawks but is still producing and releasing bullets of rain. 

There are victims here. And all of them are to some degree attached to the Hawks. That is something the team is trying to distance itself from this time so that the stain and pain of it don’t last like the last time. Too late. The vultures already circled Conner Bedard (all of 18 years old, all of just a neophyte in this game) in Winnipeg, a somewhat homecoming to Western Canada, where he grew up. Questions about the rumors of his family — specifically his mother — being the victim at the center of the insanity were unnervingly sprayed on him.

“I don’t need to answer any more questions about this stuff. Obviously, it’s all just a bunch of ‘BS’ on the internet,” he said. “It’s of course [had] an effect on myself and my family, but who cares. It’s out of our control, and it’s all just fake, made-up stuff.”

Well, some do care. And the fact that he mentioned that allowing the situation to reach this point has had (“of course”) an effect on his family, validates that he’s of course one of those who does care.

Right now, because of the lack of information provided and lack of public trust, this seems like another situation — again, this incident almost by default — the Hawks are going to have to own as a referendum of who they are. Even as much as we’d like to believe that it’s not. Transparency is tough, especially in situations where, one, you have a history of misconduct and the mishandling of that situation is still haunting you and, two, when the situation could become worse if the public were to know what really went down.

Between a rock and a hard place seems like a spa with “New Blue Sun” playing in the background in those moments. Even your enemies feel for you. Karma can’t hate you like that, can it?