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Joel Quenneville, Gary Bettman to Meet to Discuss Blackhawks Sex Abuse Investigation

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVOctober 27, 2021

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said he'll meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday to discuss the Chicago Blackhawks' handling of sexual assault allegations in 2010 after the results of an independent investigation were released Tuesday.

Quenneville, who coached the Hawks from October 2008 through November 2018, said Wednesday he won't publicly discuss the situation until he speaks with Bettman.

"I respect you all doing your job here and have your own questions here," Quenneville told reporters. "But I won't be commenting further until my meeting with the commissioner."

On Tuesday, the Blackhawks announced the findings of the independent investigation by Jenner & Block law firm into the organization's handling of a sexual abuse allegation brought forward by a former player against then-video coach Brad Aldrich during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs:

"It is clear the organization and its executives at that time did not live up to our own standards or values in handling these disturbing incidents. We deeply regret the harm caused to John Doe and the other individuals who were affected and the failure to promptly respond. As an organization, we extend our profound apologies to the individuals who suffered from these experiences. We must—and will—do better."

The investigation found that the team failed "to promptly and thoroughly investigate" the allegations, violating its own policy on sexual harassment, and allowed Aldrich to continue working with the team, providing opportunities for further misconduct.

The player filed a lawsuit against the NHL team in May for negligence, saying members of the franchise covered up his allegations.

In July, Quenneville stated he didn't become aware of the alleged conduct of Aldrich until details from the lawsuit became public.

"I first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer," Quenneville said. "I have contacted the Blackhawks organization to let them know I will support and participate in the independent review. Out of respect for all those involved, I won't comment further while this matter is before the courts."

However, the Jenner & Block report found the coach was among the high-ranking members of the organization to attend a meeting about the allegations when they first were reported in May 2010.

Reid Schar, a Jenner & Block partner who spoke about the findings, said witnesses recalled that Quenneville and then-president John McDonough expressed their desire to focus on team chemistry and the playoffs rather than act on the allegations (via Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers of The Athletic):

"Several witnesses recalled and later told others about a discussion then ensued during the meeting regarding whether the time was right to address the allegations against Aldrich in light of the ongoing playoffs. One witness recalled during the meeting that Mr. McDonough and coach Quenneville made comments about the challenge of getting to the Stanley Cup finals and a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs. What is clear is after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with the player, no action was taken for three weeks."

Aldrich was allowed to remain on the Chicago coaching staff for the remainder of the season as the Hawks went on to win the 2010 Stanley Cup title. When the team finally did act, it allowed Aldrich to resign but continue to participate in the championship celebrations.

The NHL announced Tuesday the Blackhawks were fined $2 million for their inadquate response to the allegations, and Bettman confirmed meetings with Quenneville and Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, Chicago's former assistant GM, about their roles in the situation.

"I plan to arrange personal meetings in the near future with both individuals to discuss their roles in the relevant events as detailed in the report," Bettman said. "I will reserve judgment on next steps, if any, with respect to them."

Quenneville, who coached the Hawks to three Stanley Cup titles, was hired by the Panthers in April 2019.

The former NHL defenseman has also served as head coach of the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche during a 26-year coaching career.

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