Rocky Wirtz: ‘We’re not looking back at 2010, we’re looking forward’
Members of the Chicago Blackhawks front office, including Rocky Wirtz, sat down for a town hall meeting on Wednesday night before the team’s game against the Minnesota Wild and things quickly derailed when questions about what was being done protect current and future players were asked.
Things became tense -- and very hostile -- when the Athletic’s Mark Lazerus asked Danny Wirtz what the Blackhawks have done, and are doing, to empower players so that nobody has to go through what former player Kyle Beach went through during the 2009-10 season.
Back in December the Blackhawks settled a lawsuit with Beach after he said a former video coach, Brad Aldrich, sexually assaulted him during the team’s Stanley Cup winning season in 2010. Aldrich was later convicted of assaulting a teenager in Michigan after leaving the Blackhawks’ organization.
The Blackhawks originally argued that Beach’s claims lacked merit, but an independent investigation showed that the team badly mishandled the situation. The investigation resulted in sweeping changes to the Blackhawks front office and Joel Quenneville resigning as head coach of the Florida Panthers. Quenneville was the head coach of the Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season.
In response to the question on Wednesday about what the team was doing to make sure something like that never happens again, Rocky Wirtz would not allow Danny Wirtz to answer and instead berated the reporter, angrily saying that they were not going to talk about 2010.
“I think the report speaks for itself,” said Wirtz. “The people that were involved are no longer here. We’re not looking back at 2010, we’re looking forward. And we’re not going to talk about 2010.”
“We’re not going to talk about what happened. We’re moving forward. That is my answer. Now, what’s your next question.”
He then told Lazerus what the Blackhawks are doing is none of his business. When he asked how it was none of his business, Wirtz again fired back.
“Because I don’t think it’s any of your business. You don’t work for the company. If somebody 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? You want to keep asking the same question? Ask the next question.”
The video of the exchange does not do the quotes justice in terms of sensing the hostility.
As uncomfortable as that was, things somehow managed to get even more intense when a follow-up question was later asked. Wirtz again became enraged at the question and repeated his mantra of only wanting to look forward.
Lazerus reported that Danny Wirtz approached him after the meeting and told him he would discuss actions the Blackhawks are taking to prevent another incident in the very near future.
Back in October the Blackhawks pledged that they were going to earn back trust and support from fans and sponsors on and off the ice. Just as long as you do not ask Rocky Wirtz how they plan to do that.
UPDATE: Wirtz issued this statement last Wednesday night: