Quenneville’s meeting with Bettman may decide fate with Panthers

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Joel Quenneville remained in place as coach of the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, one day before he travels to New York for a meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that will likely determine if he can keep his job.

Meanwhile, the player who said he was sexually assaulted by a member of Quenneville’s Chicago coaching staff in May 2010 went public with his identity — he’s former first-round pick Kyle Beach — and said he’s certain Quenneville knew about the allegations when they were made during the Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup that season.

“There’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it,” Beach told TSN.

An investigation, the results of which were released Tuesday, found that the allegations Beach made against then-assistant Brad Aldrich were largely ignored by the team for three weeks after a May 23, 2010, meeting discussing them took place.

That was the same day Chicago finished off a four-game sweep of San Jose to reach the Stanley Cup final, and 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.”

Beach said a meeting about his claims — it was not clear which one he was referring to — took place in Quenneville’s office.

“I hope through and through that Gary Bettman takes this seriously and that he does his due diligence … before he makes his decision,” Beach told TSN.

Beach’s interview aired in Canada about an hour before the Panthers played host to the Boston Bruins. Quenneville was behind the bench with his team for the game, like usual.

How much longer he’ll have the job is most uncertain.

The Panthers were off to a flying start this season, beginning 6-0-0 for the first time in franchise history entering Wednesday. Then came Tuesday, when Quenneville was named in the report, and the Panthers suddenly had a major issue on their hands.

“Our focus is on the ice,” Florida defenseman Brandon Montour insisted Wednesday, before the game.

Quenneville read from a prepared statement after the team’s morning skate Wednesday, saying he could not discuss the specifics because the investigation is ongoing.

The success Quenneville had in Chicago — three Stanley Cups — was why Florida brought him in to coach the Panthers a little over two seasons ago. He’s one of the biggest reasons why this Florida team believes it, finally, can win a title.

Quenneville is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, his 968 victories trailing only the 1,244 amassed by Scotty Bowman — the father of now-former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who resigned Tuesday when the investigation’s findings were released.

Quenneville was brought into Florida to turn around a long-struggling franchise, one that had cycled through 15 coaches in 25 seasons, including five in a six-season span before Quenneville was hired.

“He’s going to be the coach that’s going to bring us to the Cup,” Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said when Quenneville was hired in 2019.

It remains most uncertain if Quenneville will still have a chance to prove Huberdeau right.

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