The Chicago Blackhawks have completed their investigation into allegations of player abuse by assistant coach Marc Crawford in previous NHL roles and have made a disciplinary decision. In a joint release with Crawford himself, the Blackhawks announced that they will not fire the veteran coach, but that he has been suspended, presumably without pay, until January 2nd. The NHL has released a statement of support for the Blackhawks’ findings and decided course of action.
The statement from Chicago reads:
The Chicago Blackhawks, and independent legal counsel, conducted a thorough review of assistant coach Marc Crawford in response to allegations of misconduct in previous coaching positions. During this process, we engaged with many of Marc’s former players, colleagues, and executive management.
We do not condone his previous behavior. Through our review, we confirmed that Marc proactively sought professional counseling to work to improve and become a better communicator, person and coach. We learned that Marc began counseling in 2010 and he has continued therapy on a regular basis since. We believe that Marc has learned from his past actions and has committed to striving to reform himself and evolve personally and professionally over the last decade. We have experienced no incidents during Marc’s coaching tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Crawford adds his own honest assessment of his past actions and the steps he has taken to change his behavior:
Recently, allegations have resurfaced about my conduct earlier in my coaching career. Players like Sean Avery, Harold Druken, Patrick O’Sullivan and Brent Sopel have had the strength to publicly come forward and I am deeply sorry for hurting them. I offer my sincere apologies for my past behavior.
I got into coaching to help people, and to think that my actions in any way caused harm to even one player fills me with tremendous regret and disappointment in myself. I used unacceptable language and conduct toward players in hopes of motivating them, and, sometimes went too far. As I deeply regret this behavior, I have worked hard over the last decade to improve both myself and my coaching style.
I have made sincere efforts to address my inappropriate conduct with the individuals involved as well as the team at large. I have regularly engaged in counseling over the last decade where I have faced how traumatic my behavior was towards others. I learned new ways of expressing and managing my emotions. I take full responsibility for my actions. Moving forward, I will continue to improve myself, to listen to those that I may have hurt, and learn from their experiences. My goal is to approach all players, past and present, with empathy and understanding. My hope, as a coach and a person, is to create environments of dignity and respect.
While some may see Crawford’s 18-day suspension as a light punishment, the genuine contrition expressed in his statement is almost unheard of in the world of sports, particularly from a coach to his players. Crawford has clearly been working to right past wrongs and prevent future issues for some time now, long before these recent allegations surfaced. It should also be taken into account that Crawford has been away from the team during this investigation, which the Blackhawks took time to see through fairly and properly.
Once Crawford does return, the Blackhawks included a mandate in their statement that he continue counseling and compliance with team expectations. Beyond that, the team stated that they would have no further comment on the allegations against Crawford, a sentiment echoed by the NHL.