CHICAGO — The Blackhawks dressing room was alive with buzz, banter and laughter as players filed in following Tuesday’s morning skate. Seth Jones and Connor Murphy talked excitedly about the signing of their old friend Patrick Kane, and of all places, in Detroit, reporters mingled amicably and the mood was upbeat throughout.
About 12 hours later, Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self” — the team’s hit song this season — blared from the locker room and the Blackhawks were all smiles again as they scored three goals in a 4-3 win over the Seattle Kraken. From down-six and had a five-for-three kill with 63 seconds left in the third period.
In between, however, the Blackhawks suffered an emotional outburst when general manager Kyle Davidson said Corey Perry was no longer their teammate following a “workplace” incident. As he did with reporters later in the afternoon, Davidson withheld most of the details of the fact that Perry’s dismissal was warranted.
“It’s stunning to be honest with you,” Nick Foligno said. “We are all worried about Cory. But we understand that there is a standard to which we must adhere. … So it’s a very difficult day for all of us and it’s difficult when you don’t have all the details to fully comment. But you care about that person, and we care about this organization, and they’re going to do what’s best for all of us, and we need to know that and understand that there’s a standard we need to reach.
Seth Jones called Perry “a brother” and considered it “a tough situation.”
“We don’t have the details of what happened, but the organization wants to have a (standard) behavior here and (make it) a place where we hold each other to a standard,” Jones said. “I think it’s broken.”
The Blackhawks essentially fired Perry six days after he was deported. He was less than two months into his only season in Chicago, but the ramifications of the Perry saga — on the ice, in the dressing room, in the front office, in the minds of hockey fans around the league — will be felt by few. Time. Perry may be just the 16-game blunder in Blackhawks history, but his presence has been huge, and his absence has been huge.
You could see Davidson’s red eyes over the past few days as he took questions from reporters looking for answers he said he wasn’t allowed to give. You can sense what happened in the catches in Davidson’s voice. It was undeniably frustrating that you couldn’t hear the facts of the situation beyond the generalities, and warranted criticism of an owner who should have gone miles ahead to give the benefit of the doubt in subtle and awkward situations. It will take years for the Blackhawks to regain their lost credibility, but Davidson insists the Blackhawks did it with the book — a new book written by him and owner Danny Wirtz and president and head coach Jaime Faulkner. Luke Richardson.
“I think more than anything, it reinforces the commitment to change the culture and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” Davidson said, when asked if it undermines the work the company says it has done to improve workplace culture. In 2021, the revelations of the Jenner & Black Report shed light on the Kyle Beach sexual assault allegation and cover-up since 2010. That is my intention.”
Here are the facts Davidson presented: An incident involving Perry last week in Columbus was brought to the team’s attention. It was reported. The Blackhawks immediately removed Perry from the team and began an internal investigation. An investigation was quickly conducted, and the results found Perry “engaged in unacceptable conduct, and in violation of both his (contract) and the Blackhawks’ internal policies aimed at promoting a professional and safe work environment,” according to a team statement released earlier in the day. Perry was immediately waived for the purpose of terminating his contract.
All this happened within a week. Considering how low the bar for ownership has been set in recent years, this can easily be seen as encouraging. There was a problem. Someone felt empowered enough to report it. The team quickly addressed it, and did so with zero tolerance.
There are questions, of course. The Blackhawks certainly had good reason to withhold key details of the incident, which was a workplace incident and an internal personnel matter. Signs may need to be protected. But the ambiguity fueled speculation, and social media was uglier than usual as Perry’s mystery lingered over the weekend. For at least 24 hours leading up to Davidson’s press conference, that speculation was rife, especially when a nasty and ridiculous rumor spread involving the family of 18-year-old Connor Bedard. Call it media illiteracy or willful ignorance or just plain “fun”, but one little Twitter/X account with no credibility has managed to convince countless people that this rumor is true. Davidson was visibly upset about the rumour. But an even sharper statement about why Perry was away from the team may have canceled it out too soon.
“In the last 24 hours, what has happened is very disturbing,” she said, fighting back tears. “I feel like I’m wearing it. I’m carrying it. It’s hard to see. Yes, it’s hard to see.
For Blackhawks management, it’s another test, a chance to prove their newly stated values are more than PR. They failed in 2010, failed again in 2021 when the Jenner & Black report came out, and again during last spring’s Bright Night debacle. Maybe they got this right. Maybe one day we’ll find out. For now, they must continue to take the slings and arrows from a very skeptical hockey world, and hope that someday, hindsight will be kind to them.
As for Perry, his storied career — one Stanley Cup, one Hart Trophy, 18-plus seasons during the old Mighty Ducks of Anaheim — is now in doubt. He wanted to play in his 40s. He was the Blackhawks’ third-leading scorer and had a few years left before he had a real chance to burnish his borderline Hall of Fame credentials. All of this is up in the air now, his reputation may have changed forever, his career may be over.
For Blackhawks players, the blow is very emotional. Davidson moved quickly to replace its scoring punch, sending a fifth-round pick to Vancouver for former first-round pick and 21-goal scorer Anthony Beauvillier in the hours between his press conference and the puck drop against Seattle. never ends. But Perry is brought in as a depth scorer and more than just a net-front presence on the power play. He was brought in as a team dad, a leader and a mentor to Bedard, who is the most valuable figure in the entire Blackhawks organization. Perry needs to show Bedard how to be pro. As much as “The Worm” is hated by fans around the league, his teammates in Chicago adore him as they did in Anaheim, as they did in Dallas, as they did in Montreal, as they did in Tampa. He chatted up the freshmen, he led by example, he spoke during group meetings, he preached “brotherhood” and “responsibility.”
Then he throws it all away, leaving his brothers unconscious and unable to take responsibility for his own actions.
It will hurt. It lasts. It will leave a mark on Chicago — and Davidson doesn’t believe he’ll ever leave.
(Top photo of Corey Perry and Connor Bedard: Melissa Tammes/ICON Sportswire via Getty Images)