By TIM REYNOLDS | AP Sports Writer
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers on Thursday, two days after the second-winningest coach in NHL history was among those implicated for not swiftly responding to allegations by a Chicago Blackhawks player in 2010 of being sexually assaulted by another coach.
The announcement was made shortly after Quenneville met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York to discuss his role in what happened in Chicago during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, when a player named Kyle Beach said he was sexually assaulted by then-Blackhawks assistant Brad Aldrich.
"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 resigned with about three years and $15 million remaining on his contract with the Panthers.
An investigation released Tuesday said Quenneville — who coached Chicago at that time — and others in the Blackhawks 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.
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-Blackhawks 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 defenseman 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 Blackhawks 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 Blackhawks 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. The others that have done it: the 1934-35 and 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975-76 and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres, the 2005-06 Nashville Predators and the 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens.