Amid scandal, Quenneville quits Florida Panthers coach

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers on Thursday, two days after the second-most victorious coach in NHL history was among those involved for not responding promptly to allegations of sexual assault against a Chicago Blackhawks player. by another coach during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The announcement came shortly after Quenneville met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York City to discuss his role in the Blackhawks’ response to Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was sexually assaulted by the assistant then Blackhawks Brad Aldrich.

“I admire Kyle Beach for his courage to come forward, I am dismayed that he was so poorly supported during his initial request and for the 11 years that followed, and I am sorry for all he has. endured, ”Bettman said.

Andrew Brunette – an assistant coach under Quenneville, Fla. – has been hired as the team’s interim coach and is expected to make his debut when the undefeated Panthers play in Detroit on Friday night. Brunette has never been a head coach.

Quenneville resigned with about three years and $ 15 million remaining on his contract with the Panthers. In a statement released to TSN, Quenneville said he had resigned “with deep regret and contrition”.

“I want to express my sadness for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered. My old team, the Blackhawks, let Kyle down and I take my part, ”said Quenneville. “I want to think about how it all went and take the time to educate myself on the safety of hockey spaces for everyone. “

Bettman said he agreed with Quenneville’s decision to step down. If Quenneville, 63, ever wants to return to the NHL, Bettman said the league should meet with him first and approve his hiring.

“Joel made the decision to resign and the Florida Panthers have accepted that resignation,” said Panthers president Matthew Caldwell.

The fallout is probably not over. Bettman will meet with Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was also working for the Blackhawks when Beach made his allegations, on Friday.

“Joel Quenneville has made the decision to step down from his position with the Florida Panthers and as an association we understand and respect the decision that has been made,” said a statement from the NHL Coaches Association. “This decision is just one step in a long journey that we must take together – one that must include learning about the incredibly painful experiences of Kyle Beach.”

A survey published Tuesday said Quenneville – who coached Chicago at the time – and other members of the Blackhawks organization had not prioritized addressing Beach’s allegations, likely because they did not want to interfere with the surge of the team towards a championship.

Quenneville said he was not aware of the allegations until this summer, a position he reiterated as late as Wednesday morning. Beach, in an interview aired Wednesday night on TSN, said there was “absolutely no way” the then Blackhawks coach could deny knowing about the allegations.

The Panthers allowed Quenneville to train Wednesday night in a game that began about an hour after the Beach interview aired. At this point, the team’s investigation of what to do and how to do it was already underway.

“We thank the Panthers organization for working with us to ensure that a full process was followed,” said Bettman.

At 7-0-0, the Panthers are enjoying their best start in 28 years of franchise history, looking a lot like the Stanley Cup contender Quenneville was hired for in 2019.

If they get there, it will be without him now. On Wednesday, the players insisted they were only focusing on the ice; some of the team’s leaders, like captain Aleksander Barkov and defender Aaron Ekblad, even said they didn’t know much about the investigation or the massive fallout.

“It goes without saying that the conduct described in this report is disturbing and inexcusable,” Caldwell said. “It contrasts directly with our values ​​as an organization and what the Florida Panthers stand for. No one should ever have to go through what Kyle Beach went through during and long after their stay in Chicago.

“Quite simply, he failed,” Caldwell added. “We praise his bravery and his courage to come forward.”

Quenneville is the second-most victorious coach in NHL history, his 969 wins behind just the 1,244 amassed by Scotty Bowman, the father of former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when the findings of the survey have been published.

The investigation determined that Quenneville was among those present at a meeting on May 23, 2010 regarding Beach’s claims. It was the day Chicago won the Western Conference title and qualified for the Stanley Cup final. Chicago won the Cup that season, the first of three titles the Blackhawks won under Quenneville.

Stan Bowman quoted Joel Quenneville as saying – and this is not a quote, these are my words – saying that the playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs and trying to win a Stanley Cup were more important than sexual assault. “Beach told TSN. “And I can’t believe it. As a human being, I cannot believe this, and I cannot accept it.

Florida play Detroit on Friday, seeking to become the fifth franchise – and the seventh team – in NHL history to start a season with eight straight wins. Others who did: Toronto Maple Leafs 1934-35 and 1993-94, Buffalo Sabers 1975-76 and 2006-07, Nashville Predators 2005-06 and Montreal Canadiens 2015-16.

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