Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville was behind the bench for his team’s rousing 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night — but he did not speak to reporters afterward.
General manager Bill Zito cited what appears to be a damning interview given by the center of the Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault investigation from 2010 for not having Quenneville speak.
A large gathering — by Panthers’ standards — of local media showed up Wednesday night to speak with Quenneville.
Quenneville is scheduled to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday.
Zito did not answer any questions aside from what time Quenneville’s meeting is to take place in New York on Thursday. He said 2 p.m.
On Wednesday, before the Panthers took the ice, former Chicago forward Kyle Beach revealed on TSN that he is the player who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 and was the ‘John Doe 1’ who was suing the organization.
“I think that the step the Blackhawks took yesterday is a great step in the right direction. They accepted accountability and they took actions necessary, albeit too late,’’ Beach said.
Earlier this summer, Quenneville said he only knew about the sexual assault allegations though media reports.
In his testimony in the investigation, he gave vague answers and again claimed not to know much.
Beach, as he said on Wednesday, is not buying that.
“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 said.
“And I can’t believe that. As a human being, I cannot believe that, and I cannot accept that. I’ve witnessed meetings, right after I reported it to James Gary, that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office.
“There’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it and there’s absolutely no way that Stan Bowman would make up a quote like that, to somebody who served his organization and his team so well.”
Beach also described being taunted by teammates and others within the organization — making clear everyone on the team knew about the sexual assault.
When asked what Bettman should do when it comes to Quenneville and Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff (Chicago’s assistant GM at the time), Beach was pretty clear.
“The NHL is inclusive; the NHL includes everybody. And they let me down and they’ve let down others as well,’’ Beach told TSN.
”But they continue to try and protect their name over the health and the well-being of the people who put their lives on the line every day to make the NHL what it is. I hope through and through that Gary Bettman takes this seriously and that he does his due diligence, that he talks to not only them, but Stan Bowman, John McDonough, and anybody else that has information to offer before he makes his decision.
“Because they already let me down, they wouldn’t investigate for me, so why would they now?”
Quenneville was expected to address the media following Wednesday’s game as he did earlier in the morning.
But, as Zito said, the Beach interview changed that way of thinking.
“In light of today’s news,” Zito said, “we felt it appropriate that I adress you all. Joel will be meeting with commissioner Gary Bettman tomorrow, and he has no comments prior to that meeting.
”As an organization we commend Kyle Beach for his courage in coming forward this evening to bring to light the pain he endured in his time in Chicago. The information that has become available is deeply troubling. There is no question that the events described in yesterday’s report are serious and severe.
”We are working closely with the National Hockey League to assist with the ongoing process. With respect to that, we won’t comment further until after the commissioner’s meeting with Joel.”
What happens next, obviously is not known.
Quenneville could be suspended for his role — or potential cover up — of the sexual assault allegations or be out of a job.
The Panthers signed Quenneville to a six-year contract in 2019 for what is believed to be in the neighborhood of $6 million per season.
He could be owed close to four years of that if he is fired.
Chicago team president Stan Bowman was allowed to resign in the wake of the report on Tuesday instead of being fired.
We should have more clarity on what is next for Quenneville and the 7-0 Panthers on Thursday.