Chicago Blackhawks assistant Marc Crawford, suspended by the team two weeks ago pending investigation into allegations of misconduct in previous jobs — including having kicked Sean Avery while both were with the Kings — will return Jan. 2, the club announced Monday.
In a statement the Blackhawks said Crawford will resume his duties “subject to his continued compliance with his contractual obligations and team expectations.” In addition, Crawford will have to continue undergoing counseling.
In an accompanying statement that was unusually frank, Crawford said he has regularly sought counseling over the past decade. He singled out Avery, Harold Druken, former King Patrick O’Sullivan and Brent Sopel for apologies. “I am deeply sorry for hurting them. I offer my sincere apologies for my past behavior,” Crawford said.
“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.”
Coaches’ use of physical or verbal abuse has become a hot topic in the NHL. Such allegations have long been whispered but have become public only recently, most notably with the Calgary Flames’ decision to part ways with Bill Peters in response to the revelation that he used racial epithets in the minor leagues and struck players while he coached the Carolina Hurricanes.
The NHL’s board of governors last week voted to create mandatory training sessions for coaches and team executives to educate them about inclusion and avoiding abusive behavior. In addition, plans were announced to create a hotline for players to anonymously call to report possible abuse.
Crawford, who won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, coached the Kings for two seasons, 2006-07 and 2007-08. He later bounced around, coaching in Dallas, Switzerland and Ottawa before landing an assistant job with Chicago this season.
The Blackhawks said they spoke to players who had played for Crawford, as well as former colleagues and bosses. They said they found no incidents in which he behaved unprofessionally while with the Blackhawks and also learned he had sought counseling. “We believe that Marc has learned from his past actions and has committed to striving to reform himself and evolve,” the statement said.
Crawford said he had “learned new ways of expressing and managing my emotions … Moving forward, I will continue to improve myself, to listen to those that I may have hurt, and learn from their experiences.” He also encouraged “anyone who may have been impacted by me” to reach out to him. “There is an important discussion happening in hockey right now. I am and will continue to be a part of the solution moving forward. These conversations will set the course for future generations. I commit to being sensitive to the process, and most of all, listening to individual perspectives and feelings.”