The Chicago Blackhawks had hoped to move forward from a sexual assault scandal, but owner Rocky Wirtz’s public comments at a town hall event have raised new questions about the organization’s culture and ability to protect its players. Wirtz’s appearance marked his first media availability since an independent report found “nothing was done” by Blackhawks’ senior leadership to address former Blackhawk Kyle Beach’s allegations when they first surfaced in 2010.
Early in the live-streamed town hall, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus asked Chicago Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s son, about what the organization was doing to protect players from potential abuse in the future.
But Rocky spoke up and asserted that he’d answer the question, shut down Lazerus’ line of questioning and Danny’s interjection, and claimed any answer was “none of your business.”
“You don’t work for the company,” Rocky Wirtz said to Lazerus. “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?”
Chicago Tribune reporter Phil Thompson pursued a similar line of questioning after Rocky Wirtz finished answering Lazerus.
“I don’t like these…I think you’re out of line to ask these types of questions,” Rocky Wirtz told Thompson. “Why don’t you ask about something else? Why don’t you ask about the [general manager] search? Why don’t you do something else? Why do you bring up old business?”
Team leadership had penned an open letter after the independent report was published in October, saying the Blackhawks “are committed to continuing to earn your trust and support both on and off the ice.”
Hours after Rocky Wirtz’s exchanges, he issued a personal statement on the Blackhawks website.
“Tonight, at the Chicago Blackhawks town hall, my response to two questions crossed the line,” Wirtz wrote. “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. We have the right leaders and right processes in place to create a safe environment for our employees and players.”