Corey Perry was never a missing piece to the puzzle, but rather a foreman to supervise the Blackhawks trying to build a better future. The 38-year-old wing was in the tail-end of his career, and was acquired predominantly to be a veteran presence in the locker room and help nurture phenom Connor Bedard.
Now Perry is gone, after being stunningly released by the Blackhawks in mysterious circumstances that have created more questions than answers, spawned some horrible rumors, and left everyone in the hockey world wondering what actually happened.
We aren’t going to discuss rumors of inappropriate conduct between Perry and family members of his teammates, though we have to mention it up-front because the team itself are addressing them — and this is a key part to the story. Instead we’re going to focus solely on what we know, and perhaps more importantly: What we don’t.
Corey Perry was playing good hockey
Chicago traded for Perry in June, flipping a seventh round pick to the Lightning to secure the 38-year-old’s services. A staple on the Blackhawks’ third line, Perry was getting plenty of ice time this season, averaging 14:39 per game — the most he’s seen since 2018-19 with Anaheim.
With this playing time came modest production. Sure, Perry was no longer the 60-80 point forward he was a decade ago — but with nine points in 16 games it was clear he was a valuable on-ice player for the Blackhawks, as well as in the locker room.
This is important to establish, because it cements that Perry’s release had nothing to do with middling impact. As it stands Perry is still 5th on the team in points — despite playing five fewer games than the bulk of the team.
Something fishy in Columbus
Perry played with the team on Nov. 19 in Buffalo, and something occurred as the team traveled west to Columbus. A bizarre healthy scratch on Nov. 22 against the Blue Jackets, rumors began to swirl shortly after Thanksgiving when Perry was a healthy scratch once more, this time against the Maple Leafs in Chicago.
One missed game isn’t uncommon for a player in his late 30s, but two in a row for one of the team’s best players was extremely bizarre — and in the absence of an explanation by the Blackhawks rumors permeated the internet about Perry.
What we do know is that something happened on that trip between the Buffalo and Columbus games. On November 28, as rumors reached their peak, the team finally released a statement — which they elected to post on the team website, rather than circulate it on social media.
The statement, while understandably vague, was problematic because it offer so little information that it almost seemed to confirm the rumors circulating online. By referring to Perry’s release as a violation of “professional and safe work environments” it left the door so far open to speculate that the rumors were correct.
The Blackhawks themselves are a huge problem here
No team in the NHL has a more fundamental problem with information and a clear need for transparency than the Blackhawks. We are less than two years removed from it being revealed the team knowingly, and willingly engaged in a coverup when former player Kyle Beach filed a lawsuit against the team that he was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich.
Beach’s allegations came during the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup run, and was waved off by the organization as a distraction. The team had recently dealt Patrick Kane’s 2009 arrest for punching a cab driver in Buffalo, and they didn’t want Beach’s claims to bring attention to the team in their quest for the cup.
Despite saying they would deal with the issue after the season, which was bad enough on its own, it was later revealed that Aldrich was given the option to resign privately rather than have the assault allegations play out publicly.
The result of this scandal is the Blackhawks are, and should be held to scrutiny whether a “conduct” issue happens inside the organization. They deserve no benefit of the doubt or room to give vague statements, yet they did with Perry on Nov. 28.
Corey Perry speaks
Two days after the Blackhawks’ statement, with speculation still running rampart about the nature of Perry’s release, the player finally issued a statement in an attempt to clear the air.
We still don’t know what occurred, but the Perry statement was the first to deny the rumors swirling about the nature of his release. Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson later reiterated the rumors were false.
“This does not involve any players or their families, and anything that suggests otherwise, or anyone that suggests otherwise, is wildly inaccurate, and frankly, it’s disgusting.”
Still, the fact that this came after Perry’s statement shows that the organization still fails to see the need for transparency.
So, what actually happened with Corey Perry?
We don’t know — not really. At this point we know something didn’t occur with a teammate’s family member, but the actual reason is potentially worse — according to ESPN.
“Sources told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan that Perry indeed traveled with the team to Columbus last Tuesday, a day before the game, and an incident occurred that day involving a team employee. Davidson said Perry, who did not play in the team’s 7-3 loss, was “immediately pulled” from the game once the Blackhawks were notified, and at that point, the club began an investigation.”
So, rather than possible impropriety between Perry and a family member, we could have impropriety between Perry and a team employee. This raises dozens of questions about the nature of this incident, the power imbalance between a player and an employee, and what actually happened.
It’s understandable that the Blackhawks view this as an internal issue, but they’ve lost the benefit of the doubt in handling any issue internally following the Kyle Beach allegations.
What should happen now?
The team feels it dealt with the issue expediently, and it’s true that it took less than a week from the initial reports to Perry’s release. However, there is need for independent review. The team can’t be trusted to handle issues itself, and despite having a new GM in charge the team is not immune from doubt in their ability to handle improper conduct.
Until that occurs and a full report is released nobody will know exactly what happened with Corey Perry outside of the player himself, and those inside the Blackhawks organization. That’s a problem.