Quinn (tall guy above with Flyers at 2011 Winter Classic) is seventh all-time in NHL victories with 684. His failure to win a Stanley Cup was a blight on his resume — he lost finals with the Canucks in 1994 and the Flyers in 1980 — brightened by Quinn’s success with Team Canada.
By Brian McIntosh
The great knock against Pat Quinn when he was fired in 2006 by the Toronto Maple Leafs was that the old-school coach was out of touch.
Then in 2008, Quinn won an under-18 world title with Team Canada, and a year after that added a world junior championship with the under-20 team. His Canadian teenagers won those gold-medal games by an aggregate score of 13-1.
Apparently, the old coach connected with the kids.
“People always said my dad was old school,” Kalli Quinn, Pat’s daughter, said yesterday when her dad was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. “I don’t even know what old school means, to be honest with you. Some people would say he didn’t know how to relate to the younger players.
“He went to the world juniors and said to them: ‘Don’t be playing your Sega.’ And all the kids were like, ‘What the hell is a Sega?’ But when he went into the dressing room, there was always one common denominator: hockey. It didn’t matter if he was talking to 10-year veterans or a (National Hockey League) rookie or a junior player. Hockey was hockey, and he was able to explain it and relate to them no matter what.”
Quinn won so many games as an NHL coach and so many medals as Canada’s coach that he was finally voted — posthumously, which is a disgrace — into the Hall of Fame six years after his final game with the Edmonton Oilers. Quinn died in North Vancouver at age 71 on Nov. 23, 2014.
Quinn goes in as a builder, joining 2016 player honorees Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov and Rogie Vachon.
“He would be looking around at all the other people who have been inducted and the players that were announced today, and he would say: ‘Why me? I just went about my business and did my thing,’ ” Kalli Quinn said. “I actually asked him about it once, like: ‘Do you think you might ever go to the Hall of Fame?’ He never thought he would. He wasn’t like that. He’d be incredibly honored, incredibly touched, but he wouldn’t know what to say.”
Part of the delay in honoring Quinn is that the coach and general manager who saved the Vancouver Canucks at the start of the 1990s served for several years on the Hall of Fame’s induction committee. Instrumental in getting former Canuck Pavel Bure inducted in 2012, Quinn was always uncomfortable talking about his own candidacy for hockey immortality.
Still, it’s difficult to fathom what took Hall-of-Fame voters so long to acknowledge him.
Quinn is seventh all-time in NHL victories with 684. His failure to win a Stanley Cup was a blight on his resume — he lost finals with the Canucks in 1994 and Philadelphia Flyers in 1980 — brightened by Quinn’s success with Team Canada.
He ended a 50-year Olympic drought for Canada in men’s hockey when he coached the 2002 team to a gold medal in Salt Lake City. Two years later, he won the World Cup of Hockey with Canada. Then he added the under-18 and under-20 world titles. Quinn was 59 years old and had already spent more than three decades coaching and managing in the NHL when his international gold rush began.
“He always had a twinkle in his eye no matter what he was doing in hockey, but the coaching twinkle was different,” Kalli said. “He loved the players, loved being behind the bench. He loved being in the room because it was 23 guys, the coaching staff and the training staff that would make it happen. Dad was a firm believer in the entire organization and the fans helping bring things together. But when it came down to (the game), it was those guys in the room who made it happen.”
A measure of Quinn’s impact was what happened to his teams when he left. After he was fired by Canuck owner John McCaw on Nov. 4, 1997, Vancouver didn’t win another playoff round until 2003. Since the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment corporate leviathan fired Quinn in 2006 — after a 90-point year that followed six successful seasons, including a pair of Eastern Conference final appearances — Toronto has made the Stanley Cup tournament only once and still hasn’t won a playoff round.
Thirteen months ago, the Leafs hired Mike Babcock for $50-million to clean up the mess that began after Quinn’s dismissal. After finishing 30th in his first season in Toronto, Babcock is already hailed as a saviour even though he is years away from achieving with the Leafs what Quinn did for the Canucks 25 years ago when he transformed an organization that had long been a punchline for jokes and built a culture of winning.
“I know what impact he had on this team and this city,” Canuck president Trevor Linden, Quinn’s former captain, said. “This is a special day for our organization, Pat’s family and myself. He had a tremendous passion for the game. He loved the game and he respected his players. And he had that presence when he walked into a room. He didn’t have to say a word and he had your attention. Nobody else had that presence.”
Linden said he was “crushed” when Quinn was fired after a decade with the Canucks.
“Pat was more than just my general manager and coach,” Linden said. “He was my mentor. He was the guy you could trust. He was the Vancouver Canucks for me.”
“He loved helping people be better,” Kalli Quinn said. “That’s what he loved about coaching.”