Latest reports of Chicago Blackhawks abuse show how hard it will for Luke Prokop to change NHL culture

Luke Prokop’s hill to climb is looking like a mountain.

Luke Prokop’s hill to climb is looking like a mountain.
Image: Getty Images

I bet you didn’t think the lawsuits against the Chicago Blackhawks could get worse. Sure they can! This is hockey! There is no bottom to the gorges of ignorance and detestability! That’s what happens when you have a collection of 7th-grade educated shitheads playing games for guys who are only worried about the reputations and bottom lines in a sport not popular enough to really undergo any scrutiny.

What we found out yesterday, as both individuals who are suing the Hawks amended their suits, is that one was threatened with a baseball bat and went through repeated assaults, while also having to deal with continued insults and verbal abuse from his fucking teammates after the incident. John Doe 2, the individual who was abused by Brad Aldrich after he left the Hawks, also amended his lawsuit. 

Which makes Jonathan Toews’s claims of not knowing about anything until the following training camp a little awkward. Maybe he didn’t find out until then, but he sure didn’t do much to help this person when his teammates were pillioring him for being a VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT on the ice. Nor did the coaches say much, which ought to make for interesting answers from Joel Quenneville he gets asked about this by… well, anyone. Which of course won’t happen, because Panthers beat writers (if such a thing exists) will have to protect their precious access!

Sure, you can say it was ten years ago, and hope that hockey players know better now. But this is what Luke Prokop is walking into as the league’s first openly gay player. An atmosphere where his teammates will think sexual assault of any kind is a joke, that homosexuality is something to be derided, and any complaint will just be met by Prokop being labeled a distraction or not one of the guys. This is the mountain he has bravely declared he will climb, in order to knock it down.

The Hawks will continue to try to run out the clock on this, hoping that their buried significance in the Chicago sporting scene, and hockey’s in the sports world overall, will allow them to have this “investigation” take just long enough that everyone stops caring (around here that’ll be when Justin Fields takes the field in the first Bears preseason game, if anyone cares right now). The findings won’t be public, the Hawks will say in the intervening years their culture has changed and such a thing would never happen now, and that will be that.

But John Doe 1’s description of what he received from his teammates, stemming from what had to be the most traumatic experience of his life, should make it crystal clear what hockey culture really is like. And it should cause a complete rehab of everything in the game from the ground up. This is undoubtedly who these players are still today.

John Doe 1 already must’ve felt totally alone, which is how Aldrich was able to abuse him. He was just trying to scratch out an NHL career, and had it threatened by this monster. John Doe 1 couldn’t know what’s true and what’s not about what Aldrich could do. And he also most certainly would have seen what happened to Akim Aliu when he was allegedly racially abused by the Hawks AHL coach. Aliu got demoted for it. So Doe would have felt turning to anyone might have got him marked within the Hawks organization, and who knows how far that kind of thing could carry out to other teams.

So he has all that to contend with, and there are his teammates on seemingly a daily basis mocking him for it. Making light of it. Laughing it off. Every player on that team should have to stand in front of a microphone and answer for this. None of them will.

Here’s all you need to know:

The NHL will do their best to duck this too. They’ll promote free agency and the draft in the coming days. You didn’t hear a peep about it on Sportscenter, because ESPN is a partner now. If it comes up the NHL will also bleat about how much the culture has changed in the past decade. They’ll point to their Pride Nights, and their relationship with You Can Play, the latter of which combined with $3 gets you on the fucking train.

If nothing else, at least it’s clear how far hockey has to go to be even in the neighborhood of tolerant. More power to Prokop if he wants to be the one to lead it. It’s a quest.

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