Official ex-Blackhawks as Florida coach amid cover-up of sexual assault

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers Thursday, two days after the second-best coach in NHL history was among those who did not immediately respond to claims by a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks player that he was sexually assaulted by another coach.

The announcement came shortly after Kenneville 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 claimed he was sexually assaulted by then-Blackhawks assistant Brad Aldrich.

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

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

“I want to express my regret for the pain suffered by this young man, Kyle Beach. My former team, the Blackhawks, let Kyle down, and I have my share of that,” Quenneville said. “I want to reflect on how all of this happened and spend time learning how to keep the hockey courts safe for everyone.”

Bettman said he agrees with Kenneville’s decision to resign. Bettman said if Kenneville ever wants to return to the NHL, the league needs to meet with him first and approve his hiring.

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

The fallout probably isn’t over yet. Bettman will meet Friday with Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldaoff, who was working for the Blackhawks when Beach made his allegations.

“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,” the NHL Coaches Association said in a statement. “This decision is just one step in a long journey that we must take together, which must include learning from the incredibly painful experience of Kyle Beach.”

The investigation, released Tuesday, said Quenneville, who was coaching Chicago at the time, and other members of the Blackhawks organization did not prioritize Beach’s allegations, presumably because they did not want to give up on the team’s quest for a championship.

Quenneville said he wasn’t aware of the allegations until this summer, a position he reiterated as recently as Wednesday morning. Beach, in an interview that aired Wednesday night on TSN, said the then-Blackhawks coach had “absolutely no way” to deny he knew about the allegations.

“The Panthers allowed Kenneville to practice Wednesday night in a game that began about an hour after Beach’s interview aired. At that point, the team’s investigation into what to do and how to proceed had already begun.

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

At 7-0-0, the Panthers are off to their best start in the 28-year history of the franchise and look very much like a Stanley Cup contender that Kenneville was hired to build in 2019.

If they get there, now without him. The players insisted Wednesday that their focus was solely on the ice; some of the team’s leaders, such as captain Alexander Barkov and defenseman Aaron Ekblad, even said they knew little about the investigation or the massive implications of Tuesday’s report.

“It goes without saying that the behavior described in this report is disturbing and inexcusable,” Caldwell said. “It directly contradicts 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.

“Simply put, he failed,” Caldwell added. “We appreciate his bravery and the courage he took.”

Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, his 969 victories after Wednesday, behind only 1,244 wins by Scotty Bowman – father of now-former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when the investigation was released. Stan Bowman, like Kenneville, was among the central figures who were found not to have acted properly and quickly in accordance with Beech’s allegations.

The investigation found that Kenneville was part of a meeting about Beach’s allegations on May 23, 2010, the same day that Chicago won the

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