Sports | October 28, 2021 12:38 pm

Chicago Blackhawks Sexual Assault Scandal May Get Florida Panthers Coach Joel Quenneville Fired

Quenneville will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about his role in what transpired in 2010

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville during a game wearing a suit and tie and sporting a white mustache
Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville may lose his job.
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty

The sexual assaults that former Chicago Blackhawks video coach and convicted sex offender Brad Aldrich carried out in 2010 while the team was making a Stanley Cup run may cost Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville his job in 2021.

Quenneville will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about his role in what transpired in 2010 when Aldrich assaulted, among others, former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach, who yesterday came forward publicly as the man who filed a lawsuit against the hockey team over how the organization mishandled his allegations.

In a televised interview Wednesday night after the findings from an investigation by the law firm Jenner & Block about the allegations were made public on Tuesday, Beach said he believed Chicago’s entire locker room knew what Aldrich had done and that “word spread pretty quick.”

“Because the comments were made in the locker room, they were made on the ice, they were made around the arena with all different people of all different backgrounds — players, staff, media in the presence,” Beach said. “I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by Doc [James] Gary, and nothing happened. It was like his life was the same as the day before. Same every day. And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing.”

In a statement released Wednesday following Beach’s interview with TSN, NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Don Fehr said his organization should have done more to protect the former Blackhawk.

“Kyle Beach has been through a horrific experience and has shown true courage in telling his story. There is no doubt that the system failed to support him in his time of need, and we are part of that system,” Fehr said.

The investigation into the handling of Beach’s allegations determined that Quenneville helped cover up Aldrich’s assault of Beach and that “nothing was done” by senior leaders in Blackhawks coaching and management in 2010. Although Quenneville was allowed to coach in the Panthers’ 4-1 victory Wednesday against the visiting Bruins, Bettman may force the Panthers to remove him from the bench as soon as today. Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was an assistant GM with Chicago in 2010 and was also implicated in the cover-up in the investigation, is also at risk of losing his position.

The second-winningest coach in NHL history with 968 victories, Quenneville won three Stanley Cups and has Florida off to the best start in franchise history at  7-0-0.

“First, we would like to acknowledge and commend Kyle Beach’s courage in coming forward,” the Blackhawks said in a statement. “As an organization, the Chicago Blackhawks reiterate our deepest apologies to him for what he has gone through and for the organization’s failure to promptly respond when he bravely brought this matter to light in 2010. It was inexcusable for the then-executives of the Blackhawks organization to delay taking action regarding the reported sexual misconduct. No playoff game or championship is more important than protecting our players and staff from predatory behavior. The Blackhawks have implemented numerous changes and improvements within the organization, including hiring a new leadership team that is committed to winning championships while adhering to the highest ethical, professional, and athletic standards.”

Sentenced to nine months in prison plus five years of probation for sexual assault, Aldrich is now the chief executive of a glass-etching company called OcuGlass, a Michigan-based business that makes it a point to hire college-aged interns.

UPDATE: Following the publication of this piece,  Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers.