Joel Quenneville, the once-revered Chicago Blackhawks coach who led the team to three Stanley Cup titles, resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers Thursday, the latest in a burgeoning sexual-misconduct scandal from nearly a decade ago involving a former assistant on his Chicago coaching staff.
Quenneville stepped down after a Blackhawks-commissioned investigation by the Chicago-based Jenner & Block law firm revealed his role in suppressing the 2010 sex-abuse allegations by ex-Blackhawk Kyle Beach.
Beach’s claims were directed at Quenneville’s ex-assistant, Brad Aldrich, during the team’s historic march to the Stanley Cup. “After the release of the Jenner & Block investigative report on Tuesday afternoon, we have continued to diligently review the information within that report, in addition to new information that has recently become available,” Panthers President and CEO Matt Caldwell said in a statement late Thursday night.
“It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable. 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 continued. “We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward.”
Earlier in the day Thursday, Quenneville had been summoned to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s offices in New York to discuss the Jenner report. After that meeting, Quenneville tendered his resignation to the Florida Panthers, his coaching home since 2019.
Quenneville’s resignation comes just days after the league fined the Chicago Blackhawks $2 million, which is one of the harshest fines against a team in league history, and the team parted ways with its longtime general manager, Stan Bowman.Bettman, in his own statement, expressed support for Quenneville’s resignation and stated that the league would take no further action against him since he was stepping down.“Should he wish to re-enter the League in some capacity in the future, I will require a meeting with him in advance in order to determine the appropriate conditions under which such new employment might take place,” Bettman said in a statement.
The NHL stated it also intends to meet with Kevin Cheveldayoff, the former assistant general manager of the Blackhawks who is now general manager of the Winnipeg Jets.
Despite Thursday’s meeting, Quenneville was allowed to coach Wednesday night’s Panthers 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins, drawing criticism in some circles over the decision to let him coach in light of the new report.
Also on Thursday, the expanding scandal reached the floor of the Illinois House, where one lawmaker expressed disgust at the Blackhawks’ handling of the allegations and called on the league to suspend Quenneville and Cheveldayoff.
On Wednesday, a tearful Beach came forward as the anonymous player known in court filings as John Doe during an interview aired Wednesday with the Canadian sports broadcasting network, TSN. Beach was a first-round Blackhawks draft pick in 2008 and called up from the minor league to play for the team during its Stanley Cup-winning season.
Beach has accused Aldrich of “forcibly touching” him, masturbating in front of him without Beach’s consent and ejaculating on him while threatening his playing career if he told anyone in management about the encounter. Afterward, Beach’s lawsuit contends, Aldrich sent “harassing texts.”
Aldrich has denied the allegations and claimed the sexual encounter was consensual but did not respond to WBEZ’s requests for comment.
WBEZ first reported on Beach’s claims against the team last May, when he, named only as John Doe, filed a lawsuit against the Blackhawks. At that point, the team cited an internal investigation that would absolve the team of any wrongdoing.
Quenneville, who was hired to coach the Blackhawks in 2008 and remained in that position until he was fired in 2018, this summer told the Associated Press through a statement from the Panthers that he had learned about the allegations against Aldrich “through the media.”
“I first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer,” Quenneville said.
But the results of an investigation conducted by the Chicago-based law firm of Jenner & Block contradict that statement — noting several accounts in which Quenneville was brought into a meeting during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs about the player’s allegation against then-video coach Aldrich.
The report said on May 23, 2010, the team’s then-senior director of hockey administration learned about the encounter and dispatched the team’s mental skills coach and counselor to speak to the player about what had happened.
Later that day, the report continued, a confab that included then-team President John McDonough, MacIsaac, Bowman, then-Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, Cheveldayoff and Quenneville met to discuss the player’s allegations against Aldrich.
It was the same day the team had secured its playoff win to advance to the Stanley Cup.
Quenneville told investigators that he recalled the meeting because it was unusual to be called into McDonough’s office right after a game.
Several people in the meeting told investigators that Quenneville appeared “angry” or “agitated” and “was concerned about upsetting the team chemistry” as they entered the Stanley Cup finals.Quenneville told investigators he did not recall any resolution to come from the meeting as to how the team would handle Beach’s allegations against Aldrich, according to the report.
Several weeks later — after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and Aldrich was allowed to participate in the team’s celebration — the issue was taken to human resources, which allowed Aldrich to choose between handing in his resignation or participating in an investigation, the report read.
Aldrich resigned and went on to jobs at the University of Notre Dame, Miami University in Ohio and helped coach high school hockey in Houghton, Mich.
All told, WBEZ, through court filings and investigative reports, has documented at least eight individuals with similar allegations against Aldrich since his time with the Blackhawks. That includes a student in Houghton whom Aldrich pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct involving a student in 2013. Aldrich remains a registered sex offender in Michigan and that student, who remains anonymous, is also suing the Blackhawks for their handling of Beach’s allegations.
After releasing the Jenner report, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz said he hopes to settle the lawsuits.
Meanwhile, in Springfield, the team was on the receiving end Thursday of harsh legislative criticism.
State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, who said he grew up playing hockey and has been a lifelong Blackhawks fan, encouraged the NHL to suspend both Quenneville and Cheveldayoff, while praising Beach’s courage to come forward.
“As somebody that got into hockey because of the Blackhawks, I’m disgusted,” Carroll said on the House floor. “And thank God I don’t have my season tickets any more because I will not step foot in there again until this is dealt with properly. Let’s hope the right thing happens after all this.”
Carroll’s rousing speech was met with applause from colleagues.
Cheryl Raye-Stout contributed.