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Joel Quenneville Resigns As Florida Panthers Coach, Hours After Meeting With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Over Handling Of Blackhawks Sexual Assault Scandal

By Jackie Kostek and Marshall Harris

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville has resigned, hours after he met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Thursday to discuss his handling of the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse case during the team's 2010 Stanley Cup run.

The Florida Panthers announced Thursday night that Quenneville had resigned from his role with the club. The announcement directly included a statement from Panthers President and Chief Executive Officer Matt Caldwell, referencing the sexual assault allegation by former Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach against former video coach Brad Aldrich during the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup championship season - when Quenneville was head coach in Chicago:

"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. 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. We praise his bravery and courage in coming forward.

Quenneville himself released this statement:

"With deep regret and contrition, I announce my resignation as head coach of the Florida Panthers.

"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.

"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."

NHL Commissioner Bettman released a statement in support of the move, saying it was agreed to after his meeting with Quenneville on Thursday:

"The National Hockey League agrees with the decision tonight by Joel Quenneville to resign his duties as head coach of the Florida Panthers. In his former role as the Chicago Blackhawks head coach, Mr. Quenneville was among several former members of the Club's senior leadership group who mishandled the 2010 sexual assault claim by former Kyle Beach against the Club's then-video coach, Brad Aldrich. And, following a meeting with Mer. Quenneville that took place this afternoon in my office, all parties agreed that it was no longer appropriate that he continue to serve as Florida's head coach.

"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.

"We thank the Panthers' organization for working with us to ensure that a thorough process was followed. Given the result, there is no need for any further action by the NHL regarding Mr. Quenneville at this time. However, 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."

As CBS 2's Jackie Kostek reported Thursday, Quenneville met with Bettman around 1 p.m. Chicago time. The night before, many had been surprised to see Quenneville still coaching the Florida Panthers.

The meeting in turn came a day after Beach revealed he is the "John Doe" player accusing former Blackhawks video coach of sexual assault, and suing the team for negligence over their handling of his claims.

On Tuesday, Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman after an independent investigation determined he and other team executives failed to promptly investigate Beach's case. Bowman on Tuesday also resigned as the general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team. Also out over the Blackhawks' handling of the scandal is senior vice president Al MacIsaac.

Quenneville was brought in to meet with Bettman Thursday about his role in what happened, and what didn't happen, after Beach told Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent that Aldrich had assaulted him.

Beach has credited Vincent with trying to do everything he could when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, but has said the rest of the organization failed to properly investigate.

As the Blackhawks organization tries to deal with the fallout from that independent investigator's report, which determined management failed to promptly investigate Beach's claims, Beach spoke up again Thursday on CBS Mornings.

Beach said he's coming forward now to take back the years he lost after the assault and the lack of action that followed.

"It's important to come forward to share my story, because this is so much bigger than Kyle Beach. Yes, I'm a survivor, but there's millions of people in this world that have been affected by sexual abuse or sexual assault," he said. "And I'm speaking out now to hopefully give them a voice, to give them the power to come forward, so that we can make a change in this world, and hopefully make this a safer space in sports; but also in work, and life, and everyday."

Beach was the Blackhawks' first round draft pick in 2008, and was called up as a "Black Ace" during the team's 2010 Stanley Cup championship run, as a potential fill-in for a regular team member if needed during the playoffs.

He has accused Aldrich of threatening him with a baseball bat before sexually assaulting him in May 2010, saying Beach would never play in the NHL if anyone found out.

After the Blackhawks' game Wednesday night, the only two remaining players from the 2010 Stanley Cup team – Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – spoke about Beach's allegations.

Kane said he never heard about what happened to Beach, but remembered hearing rumors about Aldrich's departure from the team after the Stanley Cup win.

"I wish back then that we could have done some different things, or knew about some different things, that maybe we could have helped him," Kane said.

Toews said he learned about the incident at training camp the next year.

"I thought what I heard was the beginning and the end of it, and not that it was a joke, but it was something that wasn't taken super seriously at the time," Toews said. "I thought Brad being let go or resigning from the organization was the way it was dealt with. ... Had I been more connected to the situation and known some of the more gory details of it, I'd like to say, yeah, I would've acted differently in my role as captain."

But an independent investigation confirmed that, even though Beach reported the assault to Blackhawks leaders, there was never an investigation.

Not only was Aldrich allowed to continue to work and travel with the team but was allowed to participate in Stanley Cup championship celebrations in Beach's presence, and also sexually assaulted a 22-year-old Blackhawks intern, according to the investigator's report.

Years later, he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old player while coaching at a Michigan high school.

Beach said learning of that assault on a teenager "makes me sick to my stomach."

"My message to him is that I'm sorry, because I feel like maybe I could have done more then to protect him. At the same time, I want to thank him, because when I found out about his story when I decided to Google Brad Aldrich's name after a teammate had asked me about the incident, I found out about his story, and it gave me the courage and the strength and the power to ask for help," Beach said.

Beach said he also hopes his case sends a message to other victims of sexual assault "that you're not alone."

As for Quenneville, Beach said he was shocked to learn what the coach's response was to his claims, according to the independent investigation.

"There's some pretty disturbing quotes; one in particular from Stan Bowman, and a conversation that they had in a meeting with several others that he has quoted him as saying something along the lines of 'we can't deal with this now, because we're so close in the Stanley Cup Finals,' and that is absolutely the wrong message," Beach said. "To read that and to see that, it's very hard for me to believe, and I hope now that I've spoken out, that the truth has come out, that the people in the appropriate positions will take the necessary actions to make sure that this is dealt with, and that this never happens again."

Exavier Pope, a sports legal analyst and host of Suit Up News, said earlier Thursday that there could be serious consequences for Quenneville.

"Coach Q put himself in a position to be out of the game of hockey," Pope said.

Quenneville had initially claimed he knew nothing about the alleged assault until lawsuits were filed last summer. This week's report shows Quenneville's recollection of the 2010 meeting was vague, but then Bowman recalled Quenneville "shaking his head and saying it was hard for the team to get to where they were and they could not deal with the issue now." Then-team President John McDonough recalled Quenneville appearing "agitated."

"It's disgusting - and the fact that a coach that this city loved is associated with that taints a championship for the Chicago Blackhawks," Pope said.

Pope said while it is the Blackhawks organization being sued and not Quenneville directly, Quenneville was still likely still face consequences.

"Gary Bettman is going to look at the perception of the sport and the fact that you put winning a championship, knowing that this happened, pushing the investigation or any type of action and then someone is directly impacted by the fact that you said the championship is more important than handling issues of sexual assault," Pope said.

Quenneville is not the only former Blackhawks leader still in the league. Former Blackhawks Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is the current GM of the Winnipeg Jets. He is scheduled to meet with Bettman next week.

Beach said he hopes action will now be taken to make sure what happens to him is dealt with and never happens again.

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