Joel Quenneville resigns as Florida Panthers head coach in wake of NHL sex abuse case
63-year-old head coach Joel Quenneville met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday
Joel Quenneville tendered his resignation as head coach of the Florida Panthers on Thursday amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual assaults levied against a former Chicago video coach.
The 63-year-old, who coached Chicago from 2008-2018, met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday to discuss his response to the organizational mishandling of the allegations that Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted player Kyle Beach during the team's Stanley Cup run in 2010.
"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 in a statement Thursday night.
Details of Chicago's internal investigation of the allegations were released this week, resulting in the departures of general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac from the organization.
The investigation found Quenneville — who coached Chicago at that time — and others in the organization did not prioritize addressing Beach's allegations, presumably because they did not want to take away from the team's push toward a championship.
"Joel made the decision to resign and the Florida Panthers accepted that resignation," Panthers President Matthew Caldwell said.
Andrew Brunette — an assistant coach under Quenneville — was hired as the team's interim coach, and is expected to make his debut when the unbeaten Panthers play at Detroit on Friday night. Brunette has never been a head coach.
Quenneville expresses 'deep regret'
Quenneville resigned with about three years and $15 million US remaining on his contract with the Panthers. In a statement released to TSN, 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, [Chicago], 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."
Bettman said he agreed with Quenneville's decision to resign. If Quenneville ever wants to return to the NHL, Bettman said the league would need to meet with him first and approve his hiring.
The fallout likely isn't over. Bettman will meet Friday with Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who worked for Chicago when Beach made his allegations.
"Joel Quenneville made a decision to resign his position with the Florida Panthers and as association we understand and respect the decision that has been take," a statement from the NHL Coaches Association said. "This decision is only one step in a long journey we must take together — one that must include learning from the incredibly painful experiences of Kyle Beach."
'Troubling and inexcusable'
Quenneville has said he was unaware of the allegations until this summer, a stance he reiterated as recently as Wednesday morning. Beach, in an interview that aired Wednesday evening on TSN, said there was "absolutely no way" the then-Chicago coach could deny knowing about the allegations.
At 7-0-0, the Panthers are off to their best start in the franchise's 28-year history, looking very much like the Stanley Cup contender that Quenneville was hired in 2019 to build.
If they get there, it'll be without him now. Players on Wednesday insisted their focus was solely on the ice; some of the team's leaders like captain Aleksander Barkov and defenceman Aaron Ekblad even said they did not know much about the investigation or the massive fallout from Tuesday's report.
"It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable," Caldwell said. "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," Caldwell added. "We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward."
Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, his 969 victories after Wednesday trailing only the 1,244 amassed by Scotty Bowman — the father of now-former Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when the investigation's findings were released. Stan Bowman, like Quenneville, was among the central figures identified as having not acted properly and swiftly to Beach's allegations.
The investigation determined that Quenneville was part of a meeting about Beach's claims on May 23, 2010, the same 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 team won under Quenneville.
"Stan Bowman has quoted Joel Quenneville saying — and this is not a quote, this is my words — saying that the playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs and trying to win a Stanley Cup was more important than sexual assault," Beach told TSN. "And I can't believe that. As a human being, I cannot believe that, and I cannot accept that."
Florida plays at Detroit on Friday, looking to become the fifth franchise — and seventh team — in NHL history to begin a season with eight consecutive victories.
With files from The Associated Press