Editor’s Note: The following story deals with sexual assault. If you or someone you know is in need of support, resources for Canadians can be found here.

 

Joel Quenneville said he didn’t know what to expect when he met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in 2021 to discuss his role in the Chicago Blackhawks‘ sexual abuse scandal.

At the time, he had just coached the Florida Panthers to seven straight wins to open the 2021-22 season, having gone behind the bench just over an hour after Kyle Beach identified himself as the alleged victim of sexual abuse by a former Blackhawks assistant coach.

Hours after that meeting with Bettman on Oct. 28, 2021, Quenneville resigned from his position with the Panthers and has not been behind a bench since.

Appearing on the Cam and Strick Podcast, Quenneville explained how the process played out and how he should have handled the situation better.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” Quenneville said of his emotions after he read the independent investigation by Chicago law firm Jenner & Block into the alleged sexual abuse, but he admitted that when he coached that final game with the Panthers, the thought didn’t cross his mind that he would still be without a job.

“(The meeting with Bettman) happened quickly,” Quenneville said. “I think leaving Mr. Bettman’s office that day we came to an understanding it would be best for me to step away. I didn’t anticipate I’d be gone this long.”

The investigation by Jenner & Block revealed that the allegations Beach made against then-assistant Brad Aldrich were largely ignored by the Blackhawks for three weeks after a May 23, 2010 meeting discussing them took place. The allegations made by Beach in the report and through the media have not been tested in court.

The May 2010 meeting occurred on the same day Chicago completed a four-game sweep of San Jose to reach the Stanley Cup Final. The participants shared wide-ranging descriptions of what was said in the meeting in interviews given for the Jenner & Block report.

In 2021 Beach told TSN that based on what others involved have said, he believes that Quenneville thought “trying to win a Stanley Cup was more important than sexual assault.”

Speaking now, the former Blackhawks coach admits that he should have handled the situation differently.

“When I first went into the meeting after the game, I found out in a short amount of time what happened, they asked me if I knew anything about a video coach hanging around the Rockford players, and I didn’t know anything about it,” Quenneville recalled of the May 2010 meeting. “They told me that he was hanging around the Rockford players. He was socializing, they’re going out to bars, and he might have sent an inappropriate text or two, and that he was bugging them, and that’s all I knew.

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“I didn’t put it all together that it resembled sexual abuse or sexual assault and by not asking more questions, I take ownership on that, I think that had I known more, I think I would have handled it completely differently.”

Quenneville said he was made aware of Beach’s interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead an hour before the Panthers were about to play a game and said he reached out to Beach immediately.

“Once I heard the story, I tried to say hello to him and then talk to him,” Quenneville said. “It took time for him to be comfortable with the conversation. I don’t want to discuss our conversation, that’s between us.”

The 65-year-old said he has been educating himself on what happened with the situation and how he should have handled it better.

He still watches NHL games but more as a fan rather than as a coach. He also said he is keeping an eye on the flurry of coaching changes, including eight during the 2023-24 season alone, but still has to follow a process to even be considered as a candidate.

That process includes approval from Bettman to rejoin the NHL.

“Over the course of the time, whether it was first year, second year, you’re always looking at opportunities, but I’m waiting for clearance to get that chance to get back and coach,” said Quenneville. “I know that there are people that will ask you how, if there is interest. Are you thinking, ‘What are the possibilities of coming here? And are you interested?’ But there’s a process to that. Before we can go to the next step, we’re still not there yet.”



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