Quenneville resigns as Panthers coach after meeting with Bettman

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville calls out to players during an NHL hockey training camp, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville has resigned, hours after meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss his role in the Chicago Blackhawks' sexual abuse scandal on Thursday in New York.

Quenneville was coach of the Blackhawks in 2010 when the alleged abuse took place.

The Panthers say they will name an interim coach shortly.

Bettman said he agreed with Quenneville's decision in a statement.

Quenneville coached the Panthers to their seventh straight win to open the season on Wednesday night against Boston, just over an hour after Kyle Beach identified himself as the alleged victim of sexual abuse by a former Blackhawks assistant coach.

One day earlier, an independent investigation was released, finding that the allegations Beach made against then-assistant Brad Aldrich were largely ignored by the team for three weeks after a May 23, 2010, meeting discussing them took place.

That was the same day Chicago finished off a four-game sweep of San Jose to reach the Stanley Cup Final, and Beach told TSN that based on what others involved have said he believes that Quenneville thought ``trying to win a Stanley Cup was more important than sexual assault.''

Quenneville, who served as head coach of the Blackhawks from 2008 to 2018 before being hired by Florida in 2019, said in July that he'd "first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer" in a statement provided by the Panthers to the Associated Press.

However, the findings of the investigation into the Blackhawks' handling of the situation, conducted by Jenner & Block LLP law firm, contradicted the claims made by Quenneville.

According to the report Quenneville was part of a club meeting to discuss the allegations that then-assistant coach Aldrich had sexually assaulted a player.

The meeting took place on May 23, 2010, an hour after the Blackhawks' playoff win that secured the team's place in the Stanley Cup Final. It featured several other prominent executives including former team president John McDonough, hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac, former executive vice president Jay Blunk, assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and then-general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned from his role with the team Tuesday amid the fallout from the investigation.

Quenneville was not present for the first portion of the meeting, according to what other participants who were in the meeting said during the investigation, and was called upstairs to join after it had started. Quenneville remembered others in the meeting stating that “an event happened without saying what happened.”

According to Bowman's recollection of events, after learning of the incident, Quenneville "shook his head and said that it was hard for the team to get to where they were (in the playoffs), and they could not deal with this issue now."

Quenneville's recollection was less specific, recalling only that his focus was on winning and the meeting was unexpected, and was unclear whether Aldrich’s name was referenced.

Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, his 969 victories trailing only the 1,244 amassed by Scotty Bowman -- the father of now-former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when the investigation's findings were released.

The native of Windsor, Ont., is a member of the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame. He guided the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles – in 2010, ’13 and ’15.

-- With files from The Associated Press

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