Quenneville Welcomed Back With Deserving Salute

"It captured some special moments in the building," Joel Quenneville said.

Chris Emma
January 21, 2020 - 11:32 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- For all Joel Quenneville meant to this city, there was never a proper thank you.

Quenneville left Chicago as an icon and a three-time Stanley Cup champion, but his exit came suddenly as the Blackhawks fired him in early November 2018. It's why Quenneville's return to the United Center on Tuesday night as Panthers head coach had been marked on calendars for so long.

At the first timeout of the Panthers' 4-3 win over the Blackhawks, the 21,559 fans in attendance at the United Center got their chance to salute Quenneville with more than two minutes of the familiar "Q" chants.

"It felt unbelievable," Quenneville said. "It's a great feeling. It captured some special moments in the building."

Quenneville's arrival as Blackhawks coach in October 2008 helped bring the birth of a hockey dynasty. He was the ideal leader at the right time.

Over the course of 10-plus seasons, 452 victories and three championships, the Blackhawks had Quenneville to lead the way. He's a future Hall of Fame coach who provided a young core with its puck-possession style of play and firm structure. 

The Blackhawks gave Quenneville a third opportunity as head coach after he had been fired twice before. He helped the Blackhawks set a winning standard and turned into a hockey great himself. The Blackhawks and Quenneville brought each other back to prominence.

Quenneville was respected by his players and revered by the fans. Now, he's remembered as a legend in Chicago.

"That ovation for him was incredible," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Those of us who played for him were all smiles. 

"I'm thankful to have spent those great years playing for him." 

More often than not in sports, eras end without fanfare or celebration. Only a few can go out as a champion.

Quenneville's firing seemed to mark the end of the Blackhawks' run as a perennial Stanley Cup contender. It was a complicated divorce between the sides, with the organization believing it was better served without the NHL's active wins leader in coaching. Quenneville admittedly felt the disappointment of being dismissed.

Those feelings were in the distant past Tuesday, when he was welcomed back to Chicago.

"When I left here, the bitterness that you think you might have would have been prevalent," Quenneville said. "But I didn’t have any of that type of feeling. The memories were too special."

Quenneville received one more salute in the waning seconds of regulation of his Panthers' sixth straight win, with those remaining inside the United Center offering another prolonged "Q" for their former coach.

After addressing a Panthers team perhaps poised for a run this season, Quenneville emerged outside the visiting dressing room, where he was greeted by Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

For one more night, Quenneville and the Blackhawks came together to remember what they accomplished, and Chicago got the chance to acknowledge an icon.

"It was kind of like saying thank you to me," Quenneville said. "And I was thanking them."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.