From Day One as GM, Stan Bowman has always been a hated man. Many felt he was simply handed the job; that Papa Scotty pulled a few strings, even though Stan was already working with the organization years before his father arrived in July of 2008.
The idea of a Bowman Coup reached a fever pitch when the next July – the same year the Blackhawks ended a five-year playoff drought and advanced to the Western Conference Finals – Dale Tallon was suddenly fired as General Manager. The reason? Supposedly, it was due to an administrative snafu regarding qualifying offers to key players, including Kris Versteeg, Colin Fraser, Ben Eager, and Troy Brouwer, among others. The June 29th deadline for QO’s was somehow missed, Tallon took the fall, and Stan was tapped as the new GM.
They say hockey fans have long memories. For Blackhawks fans – who were there for the “Dark Ages” under Dollar Bill Wirtz, who belonged to a franchise that was relentlessly mocked in the sports world – their memories are even longer. To this day, fans are still salty about Tallon’s firing. Dale was the one responsible for the Cups, not Stan. Dale was the one who began to make this franchise relevant again. If it wasn’t for Tallon, the Cup Era would have never happened. These arguments all have merit, and more importantly, they are all based in hindsight. Hockey fans never forget, especially Blackhawk fans.
So how will the Blackhawks be remembered now? What will the Brad Aldrich allegations do to the Cup Era – the era that resuscitated an entire franchise from oblivion? What will this do to a still-beloved coach in Joel Quenneville, who is now scheduled to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (along with then-Assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff)? What does this do to the players who knew about the Aldrich allegations all along – whom, according to Nick Boynton, was “everyone”? What does this do to the legacies of every player on the 2010 team, including Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane?
The irony here is how easily this all could have been avoided. Instead of immediately suspending video coach Brad Aldrich and/or investigating the matter, it was swept under the rug by everyone, including Senior Director of Hockey Administration Al MacIsaac, Assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, and President John McDonough. For them, their “one goal” slogan was all too real. There was nothing more important than ending a 49-year championship drought – not even a player’s sexual assault allegations against a superior. Nothing could get in the way, and nothing did.
Even after the Blackhawks won in 2010, they still refused to take any action, as Aldrich was given the option to quietly resign on June 16th. Aldrich was never reported or investigated; he was allowed to simply disappear under the radar until 2013, when he was convicted and jailed for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old while employed as a coach on a high school hockey team.
Essentially, the Blackhawks allowed a predator to continue to abuse not only more victims, but child victims, all for the sake of a championship and to avoid bad publicity. Everything the Blackhawks worked so hard for is destined to be overshadowed by the massive failure of a grossly negligent organization that sold its soul for a Stanley Cup. The resurrection of a franchise once dubbed “the worst in all of sports” will now have a shameful footnote.
Even if Bowman wasn’t entirely responsible for the Cup Era, his legacy – and his downfall – is directly and forever entwined. The fans who have always hated Stan will have to reconcile their jubilation of his ouster and the tragic cause that preceded it. This goes beyond a general disapproval of a GM, his unfair rise to power, or his perceived missteps at constructing a legitimate hockey club. Bowman certainly won’t be missed, and now, he will never be forgotten.
It wasn’t too long ago when the worst thing fans had to fear was a slow start to the season or whether the “Cup window” was finally closed. For the moment, those days seem much farther now. We know how the Cup era began; and now, we know how it officially ends – and it’s even darker and worse than we could’ve ever imagined.