[UPDATE: Following a Thursday meeting with Bettman, Joel Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Panthers. Andrew Brunette will take over on an interim basis.]
SUNRISE, Fla. — Joel Quenneville coached the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.
What happens Thursday will likely determine if he keeps that job.
Quenneville will meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday in New York about his role in what happened — and what didn’t happen — in Chicago during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, when a player named Kyle Beach claimed he was sexually assaulted by Blackhawks assistant Brad Aldrich. Quenneville was the head coach of that team, which won the Stanley Cup.
Among Beach’s allegations, many of which he detailed in an interview with TSN on Wednesday night: That top Blackhawks officials, including Quenneville, did not give his claims any credence because they were prioritizing a chance to win a championship and not his personal safety. Quenneville said in July that he was unaware of the allegations until this summer, a stance that he reiterated on Wednesday.
“As an organization, we commend Kyle Beach for his courage in coming forward this evening to bring to light the pain he endured during his time in Chicago,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “The information that has recently become available is deeply troubling. There’s no question that the events described in (Tuesday’s) report are serious and severe.”
Zito said Quenneville had no comment. The Panthers — off to the best start in the NHL this season — said they would have no other comment, deferring to the ongoing process, until after Quenneville’s meeting with Bettman.
Beach, in his TSN interview, said he’s certain Quenneville knew about the allegations when they were made.
“There’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it,” Beach told TSN.
An investigation, the results of which were released Tuesday, found 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.”
Beach said a meeting about his claims took place in Quenneville’s office.
“I hope through and through that Gary Bettman takes this seriously and that he does his due diligence … before he makes his decision,” Beach told TSN.
Beach’s interview aired in Canada about an hour before the Panthers played host to the Boston Bruins. Quenneville was behind the bench with his team for the game, like usual.
And the Panthers won, like usual.
They beat Boston 4-1 and are 7-0-0 this season, extending the best start in franchise history and becoming just the 14th team in NHL history to open with seven consecutive victories. But there is certainly the very real chance that Quenneville may not keep his job, depending on what Bettman determines.
“Honestly, I don’t know much about it,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “Don’t want to comment on it.”
Quenneville did not display anything other than the usual emotions during the game, walking briskly off the bench when the final horn sounded on his way to the locker room. He read from a prepared statement after the team’s morning skate Wednesday, saying he could not discuss the specifics because the investigation is ongoing.
“I don’t know much about what’s going on,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said.
The success Quenneville had in Chicago — three Stanley Cups — was why Florida brought him in to coach the Panthers a little over two seasons ago. He’s one of the biggest reasons why this Florida team believes it, finally, can win a title.
Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, his 968 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.
Quenneville was brought into Florida to turn around a long-struggling franchise, one that had cycled through 15 coaches in 25 seasons, including five in a six-season span before Quenneville was hired.
“He’s going to be the coach that’s going to bring us to the Cup,” Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said when Quenneville was hired in 2019.
It now seems up to Bettman to decide if Quenneville will have a chance to prove Huberdeau right.