Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito believes the team made the right decision to let Joel Quenneville coach against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
At the time, the former head coach was scheduled to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss his involvement in the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse case involving former player Kyle Beach. After the game, Quenneville did not address reporters as Zito read a statement.
“It was a detailed, comprehensive process that we went through with regard to what the ultimate resolution was, and keeping in mind that what we did and how we did it, we needed to eliminate that prejudice in the process,” Zito told ESPN’s Leah Hextall. “I think at the end of the day, we came to the right result.”
Quenneville resigned as coach on Thursday after his meeting with Bettman. He still had three years and $15 million remaining on his contract with the Panthers. In a statement released to reporter Chris Johnston, Quenneville said he resigned “with deep regret and contrition.”
“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. “I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take the time to educate myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.”
The Panthers named assistant coach Andrew Brunette as interim head coach for Quenneville. Zito said the team will take its time finding the right candidate to lead the team going forward.
“We began obviously dealing in very short order last evening, and much appreciation to Andrew for stepping up and helping and as you can tell, we’re methodical, we’re not going to rush out and chase anything for the wrong reasons at the wrong time,” Zito said. “We’re going to take our time and go through the process. So for now, Andrew Brunette is the interim coach. And I can’t really tell you what the temporal scope is.”
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 investigation determined that Quenneville was among those attending a May 23, 2010, meeting regarding Beach’s claims. That was the day Chicago won the Western Conference title and moved into the Stanley Cup Final. Chicago won the Cup that season, the first of three titles the Blackhawks won under Quenneville.
“Reading that report, seeing that video, it hits home. I mean, it could be anybody, as a father as a parent, and you reflect on that, and there’s so many thoughts that race through everybody’s mind,” Zito said about Beach coming forward. “We have empathy for Kyle, and respect for the strength and courage that it took for him to do what he did.”
—With files from the Associated Press.