Panthers’ Quenneville resigns amid abuse case

Joel Quenneville resigned Thursday as head coach of the Florida Panthers following a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about his involvement in the Chicago Blackhawks‘ sexual abuse case.

Assistant coach Andrew Brunette will take over on an interim basis, an NHL source told ESPN.

Quenneville was in his third year as head coach of the Panthers, who are off to a 7-0-0 start. He resigns with two additional years and more than $15 million left on his contract.

Bettman said in a statement that the NHL agrees with Quenneville’s decision to resign.

“Following a meeting with Mr. Quenneville that took place this afternoon in my office, all parties agreed that it was no longer appropriate that he continue to serve as Florida’s head coach,” Bettman said. “We thank the Panthers’ organization for working with us to ensure that a thorough process was followed.

“Given the result, there is no need for any further action by the NHL regarding Mr. Quenneville at this time. However, should he wish to re-enter the League in some capacity in the future, I will require a meeting with him in advance in order to determine the appropriate conditions under which such new employment might take place.”

On Wednesday, Kyle Beach came forward as “John Doe,” the former Blackhawks player who filed a lawsuit against the team for mishandling his sexual assault allegations in 2010. The suit led the Blackhawks to commission an investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block, which looked into the allegations that former video coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted and harassed Beach during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run.

The investigation, which was made public Tuesday, revealed that Quenneville was aware of the situation and took part in at least one meeting regarding the allegations during the 2010 postseason. Quenneville had previously said he only learned of the allegations in the summer of 2021 “through the media.”

In an interview with TSN on Wednesday, Beach said there was no way Quenneville was unaware of the allegations.

“I’ve witnessed meetings, right after I reported it to [Blackhawks mental skills coach] James Gary, that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office. There’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it,” Beach said.

According to recollections from former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman in the investigation report, Quenneville, after learning of the Aldrich allegations, “shook his head and said that it was hard for the team to get to where they were [the playoffs] and they could not deal with this issue now.”

Quenneville coached the Panthers in their win against Boston on Wednesday night. Rather than have the coach speak to the media, general manager Bill Zito read a statement saying Quenneville would have no comment until he met with Bettman on Thursday. The meeting in New York included Quenneville, Zito, Panthers CEO Matthew Caldwell, Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered. My former team, the Blackhawks, failed Kyle and I own my share of that,” Quenneville said in a statement to TSN. “I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take the time to education myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.”

Quenneville joins Bowman and Blackhawks senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac in stepping aside for their roles in the sexual abuse case. The Blackhawks were also fined $2 million.

“After the release of the Jenner & Block investigative report on Tuesday afternoon, we have continued to diligently review the information within that report, in addition to new information that has recently become available,” Caldwell said. “It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable. It stands in direct contrast to our values as an organization and what the Florida Panthers stand for.

“No one should ever have to endure what Kyle Beach experienced during, and long after, his time in Chicago. Quite simply, he was failed. We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward.”

Bettman echoed that in the NHL’s statement.

“I admire Kyle Beach for his courage in coming forward, am appalled that he was so poorly supported upon making his initial claim and in the 11 years since, and am sorry for all he has endured,” Bettman said.

Beach wrote on Twitter earlier Thursday that he has “immense gratitude” for the support he has seen over the past two days but added that “my battle is really just beginning as the Blackhawks continue to attempt to destroy my case in court.”

Quenneville has the second-most coaching wins in NHL history, with a record of 969-572-150 with 77 ties in 25 years with the Blackhawks, Panthers, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. He led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships, including in the 2009-10 season when Kyle Beach reported his sexual assault allegations to the Blackhawks.

Bettman is scheduled to meet with Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff on Friday. He was assistant general manager with the Blackhawks in 2010 and also took part in a meeting about the sex abuse case.

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