Panthers keep thoughts with Beach, move forward without Quenneville

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DETROIT — The Florida Panthers’ thoughts were with Kyle Beach on Friday while they prepared to play without Joel Quenneville.

Quenneville resigned as Panthers coach Thursday after an independent investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks’ handling of Beach’s allegations of sexual assault by Brad Aldrich in 2010, when Quenneville was coach, Beach a forward prospect and Aldrich video coach with the Blackhawks.

Andrew Brunette was named Panthers coach Friday before their game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE).

“We all feel sorry for what happened, and that’s all that matters for now for us,” forward Jonathan Huberdeau said.

 

[RELATED: Quenneville resigns as Panthers coach, named in Blackhawks investigation]

 

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad said: “We’re all humans here. There’s things more important than hockey. … It’s been a crazy few hours — or, sorry, few days. With all the information and everything that’s happened, we’re a team that’s a bit distraught right now. But we have to come together and continue to play.”

Brunette said his status is “day to day,” and he’s trying to help the Panthers get through this.

“It’s been a whirlwind for obviously everybody involved, and it’s been a real sad day for hockey with Kyle Beach and everything he’s gone through,” Brunette said. “We really feel for him. Our sympathies [are for] what he’s had to deal with. … It’s a sad day for our organization. It’s a sad day for our players. It’s a sad day for the game of hockey.”

Ekblad said he watched an interview Beach gave to TSN on Wednesday in which he came forward as the player at the center of the investigation. Beach, the No. 11 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, was 20 at the time of the alleged incident. He never played in the NHL and now is 31.

“Just really sad for him, felt really bad,” Ekblad said. “It’s just a terrible situation that I couldn’t imagine being in that situation and having to deal with that and the emotions that follow. So wish the best for him in his recovery, and ultimately as a leader, you like to think that nothing like that could happen to you or your team, and it’s important to stay vigilant and take care of any situations prudently.”

Asked if the interview changed how he felt about Quenneville, Ekblad said: “Ultimately, that interview just gave me a tremendous amount of respect for Kyle Beach and what he went through. I’m not sure about my feelings right now. I’m just trying to gather them and take care of what I can take care of mentally and learn and grow from the situation. But I’m just not sure how I feel.”

Quenneville met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Thursday.

Asked what the Panthers’ emotions were while flying to Detroit not knowing what would come next, Huberdeau said: “Mixed emotions. I think there’s a bigger picture than that. I don’t think we were thinking about that.”

Asked about Quenneville’s departure, Ekblad said: “It’s tough to see him go, but at the end of the day we understand and acknowledge his decision to do what he has to do. That is what it is, and we’ve got to carry on.”

Brunette played for Quenneville with the Colorado Avalanche from 2005-08 and with the Blackhawks in 2011-12, and he had assisted him with the Panthers since 2019-20.

“I’m just trying to process,” Brunette said. “It’s been a whirlwind, and I wish I could give you a better answer. I can’t even explain to you. Again, I understand the bigger issue here right now is Kyle, and we don’t need this in hockey anymore, and that’s the bigger issue. Things will figure themselves out, and again, I’ll process and we’ll get through this going forward here.”

The Panthers are 7-0-0 for the first time and lead the NHL with 14 points.

“We haven’t had to go through much adversity yet this year, and this is as big as you can get,” Brunette said. “We’ve got a great group of guys. We’ve got a great leadership group that are really leaning on each other right now, and as a group we’ll find a way to get out of this moving forward.”

Ekblad said the Panthers would try to keep things the same without Quenneville.

“Obviously we’ve won seven straight; we want to make it eight,” he said. “Doing something different now would not make sense. So just try to carry on what we’ve done these first seven games, and that starts with compete, and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

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