Joel Quenneville steps down as Florida Panthers coach amid sex assault scandal

SUNRISE, Fla. — Joel Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers on Thursday after revelations showed the former Chicago Blackhawks coach was aware of 2010 sexual assault allegations against one of his assistant coaches and did not act upon it.

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Quenneville, the second-winningest coach in NHL history, resigned after he met with Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York to address claims from Kyle Beach that he was sexually assaulted by then-Blackhawks assistant Brad Aldrich, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“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.

Quenneville had originally denied knowledge of Beach’s allegation, which occurred during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, according to the Miami Herald. However, a report published Tuesday by Jenner & Block, a Chicago law firm, and allegations made by Beach during an interview with The Sports Network on Wednesday, contradicted the coach’s statements.

Assistant coach Andrew Brunette will take over as interim coach, an NHL source told ESPN. The Sun-Sentinel also confirmed that Brunette, who has never been a head coach in the NHL, will take over the team.

Quenneville, in his third season as head coach of the Panthers, leaves with two years and more than $15 million remaining on his contract, ESPN reported. The Panthers are 7-0-0 this season.

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, the Blackhawks, 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.”

Quenneville’s 969 victories are second only to Scotty Bowman’s 1,244. Scotty Bowman is the father of former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when a finding from an investigation into the incident was released.

According to the investigation, Quenneville was among those attending a May 23, 2010, meeting regarding Beach’s claims. That was the day Chicago won the Western Conference title and moved into the Stanley Cup Final, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Chicago won the Stanley 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.”

“It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable,” Panthers CEO Matt Caldwell said in a statement. “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. We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward.”

The Panthers will be trying to become the fifth franchise -- and seventh team -- to begin a season with eight consecutive wins, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Florida plays at Detroit on Friday.

The other teams that have gone 8-0-0 to begin a season are 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.

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