Jim O’Donnell: Services for Rocky Wirtz enable ‘Coach Q’ to fortify his quiet push to return

THE PENALTY BOX IS OPEN FOR ANYONE who wants to argue that Joel Quenneville doesn’t deserve to be back coaching in the NHL and one day is more than worthy of enshrinement in Hockey’s Hall of Fame.

The former Blackhawks ice champion continued to make all the right moves this week by attending both memorial services for Rocky Wirtz — Tuesday at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and Wednesday at the United Center.

Quenneville has never been formally suspended by the league. But after news of an 11-year-old sexual abuse scandal broke in October 2021, he resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers following a meeting with commissioner Gary Bettman.

He hasn’t coached a pro game since. His two-season exile has technically been voluntary.

QUENNEVILLE HAS ALSO ACKNOWLEDGED a degree of accountability in the sordid vertical mess engendered by the Blackhawks of 2010. The truth of the full scope of that accountability can be left to more astute historical and real-life analysts.

What is fact is that Quenneville pursued his 24 seasons as a head coach in the NHL with respect for the game, for his profession and for the unending items of speed-skated decisions that cross past in front of a platinum-gold bench master.

The notion persists that had he been told by Blackhawks superiors to prioritize abuse claims in May 2010 over the pursuit of a Stanley Cup, he would have done so.



He wasn’t. Instead, his Blackhawks won the first of three Cups in a remarkable six-year span.

HOPEFULLY, EVEN THE MOST WOKE on the planet still subscribe to basic tenets about the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.

Short of self-flagellation at center ice inside a sweater of thorns, Quenneville has done his time.

It’s time for Bettman and all who have sat in lordly judgment to allow “Coach Q” to get back to where he belongs.

The Hockey Hall is waiting.


No less than Michael Jordan is being paged — some might say downright pestered — to be part of a major regional sports initiative. A potential stumbling block is that at age 60, His Shrewd & Imperial Airness feels lending his name to any project is worth its weight in gold. (Meaning he has no-pest strips on his exchequer.) …

News that Tom Waddle will not be part of game days during the inaugural season of ESPN-AM (1000) as Bears radio flagship astounds. Waddle is the closest thing the struggling station has to a Bears authority — after him, it’s Spanky, Darla and old George McCaskey audio. …



One of the busiest football presences on the local sportscape this season will be Dave Wannstedt. The eminently likable former Bears coach will be affiliated with a spectrum of broadcast clients including: WMAQ-Channel 5, “Pro Football Weekly,” The Big Ten Network, WSCR-AM (670) and NBCSCH. On rare days off, “Wanny” might be teaching Deft Political Survival to other idling whistle toters. …

Scott Tolzien (Fremd High ’06) has been elevated to quarterbacks coach with Mike McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys. Tolzien, 35, thus moves on to a fast track toward becoming a head coach. There is a cheddar-rabid school of thought that he is on a fated route to return to Wisconsin some day as Badgers HC. …

Now it’s producers from “60 Minutes” who are sniffing around the turmoil in athletics at Northwestern. While there’s no question that the 55-year-old network news profit center has lost some topspin, the shading of any reasoned national report from The Enchanted Lakefront is certain to engage. …

College basketball princess Caitlin Clark and Iowa will host Doug Bruno and DePaul in an outdoor exhibition game at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 15. The Blue Demons took a huge blow this spring when superstar-in-ascent Aneesah Morrow announced her decision to transfer to LSU. …

Bill Adee of is reporting that the first class of The Sports Gambling Hall of Fame in Las Vegas includes Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Roxy Roxborough and tell-some author Billy Walters, among others. It’s located in The Circa Sportsbook. Some northwest suburban Chicagoans are stunned that Rand Road songbird “Dr. Rock” — Robbie Hildebrandt — isn’t among the initial wave of inductees. …

And Battery Park existentialist Phil Mushnick asks: “Will NFL players be suspended for playing NFL slot machines?”

• Jim O’Donnell’s Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.


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