Hockey’s head in the sand on sex abuse continues to get more people hurt, as latest USA Hockey lawsuit shows

The University of Minnesota is facing a lawsuit over charges that it failed to address charges of sexual abuse brought against an area youth coach.
Photo: Getty Images

There is unavoidable, though sickening, symmetry in the news coming out of the hockey world today. And there’s a good chance that the NHL will try to avoid commenting on any of it, hiding behind the “open litigation” shield as most organizations do. But it’s the silence and the hope it all goes away that keeps landing hockey, and colleges, and churches, and whomever else, in this kind of swamp time after time.

We mentioned earlier today the lawsuit aimed at the Chicago Blackhawks. And the details are close to all the ones you’ve read before. A player feels he was assaulted/mistreated/abused by a coach, so he goes to a team official to report it, and that official does his best to bury it. Stop it right there and never let it up the chain of command, where someone might have to make an actual decision. Shame the player if you have to, just get it out of here as soon as possible.

Which means that former Blackhawks video coach, Brad Aldrich, was free to go on about his business, never feeling like the axe will drop. And then three years later, in 2014, he ends up on a sex offender list in Michigan for involvement with a teenage boy. Would this have happened if the Hawks had snuffed out this behavior three years prior? This player seems to think so, which was the impetus of his suit.

Meanwhile, staying in the Chicago area, six men are suing USA Hockey, the AHAI (governing body of youth hockey in Illinois), and the University of Minnesota, alleging that they repeatedly ignored accusations against youth coach Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas.

The suit stems from Katie Strang’s February 2020 story in The Athletic that detailed the charges against Adrahtas, and how he shuttled from job to job with only whispers and rumors of why he was always moving around. It details how these kids had nowhere to turn, as everyone above Adrahtas sought to keep it quiet, or eliminate the story altogether before anyone had to make any serious decisions. All of these abuses took place starting nearly 25 years ago, and yet Adrahtas was coaching for much longer than that.

It’s kind of amazing, if not so predictable, how these cases were handled, even though they were years apart. A coach is accused by a player, whether it was a professional or a teenager, and everyone above that coach is just trying to figure out how to make it go away. And because of that, more potential victims are exposed to said monster. But everyone got to keep their jobs above that coach a little while longer, which seems to have been their only aim.

We’ve seen this outside of hockey hundreds of times, of course. LSU, Baylor, the Catholic church… we could go on. Someone’s ass-covering just leads to more and more victims. And yet it doesn’t seem to stop.

Hockey has a problem, in that it’s a culture that is based on a lot of kids leaving home and being away from parents and their homes. Which makes them even more vulnerable than they already were by just being kids. It’s the perfect setting for a predator to groom and abuse, and we’ve seen it far too many times. And clearly, that kind of behavior seeped into the top level of hockey, as this lawsuit against the Hawks alleges.

As I said last night, the Hawks were experts at burying their heads in the sand and/or shoving the easiest element to the side, i.e. the player. They demoted Akim Aliu to the ECHL from the AHL after his claims of racial abuse by his coach, Bill Peters. Peters went on to be a complete dickhead in Calgary as an NHL coach before being fired for all of it. If the Hawks had done what was right, he never would have been there. Maybe Aliu’s career goes differently. And for what? So some people didn’t have to deal with a difficult situation and could keep their jobs. Keep everything quiet.

It’s a familiar tale, and the most disheartening thing is that it keeps getting told. 

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