The National Hockey League lost a great man and legend of the game in Pat Quinn Sunday.
Pat Quinn, a former defenseman and longtime NHL coach and executive who brought a stern and passionate presence to hockey over several died at the age of 71.
“Whether he was playing for a team, coaching a team or building one, Pat Quinn was thoughtful, passionate and committed to success. Pat’s contributions to hockey, at every level, reflected the skills he possessed and the great respect with which he treated the sport,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The National Hockey League, one of the many organizations to benefit from his devoted service, sends heartfelt condolences to Pat’s loved ones and his many friends around the hockey world.”
Concerns over Pat Quinn’s health were on display recently earlier this month when he could attend this year’s Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony. Quinn, the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame committee, was always a present during special times like this.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Pat Quinn,” vice chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame Jim Gregory said in a release. “Pat is one of hockey’s most respected individuals whose lifetime involvement as a player, coach and executive has made an indelible mark on the game, and our thoughts and prayers are with Sandra and all of Pat’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”
Known as the “Big Irishman,” Quinn left an impression everywhere he went. The game will never forget the mark he left on the game. He was a winner at every level of the sport.
For those who remember Quinn’s playing career he was villain to most because he was the guy who caught Bobby Orr with his head down in a playoff game in 1969, laying him out cold. Mostly everyone was a fan of the Boston superstar at the time and hated the big Toronto defenseman.
Quinn played 606 NHL games over an 11-year career and, following retirement. Quinn carried that rough and tough attitude into his coaching and managerial career, where he would leave a far greater impression.
Quinn coached five NHL teams and began his coaching career in Philadelphia, where he led the Flyers to a 35-game unbeaten streak in the 1979-80 season that almost certainly will never be broken since ties have been taken out of the game. He also took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup in Final in 1980, where they would fall to the New York Islanders in six games. He would go on to win his first of two Jack Adams Awards that season.
After a brief coaching stint in Los Angeles, where he would bring the Kings back to the playoffs, Quinn’s biggest impact as a coach would be felt in Vancouver and Toronto; two cities which lay claim to him to this day.
Mr. Quinn arrived in 1987 to save a money-losing franchise from irrelevancy, as he turned the Canucks from perennial losers to winners. While it seemed to happen overnight, it took years to accomplished, but one thing was for sure Pat Quinn was going to do things his way whether people liked them or not.
Quinn reshaped Vancouver Canucks history when he drafted future Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden with the second over pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. The following year at the 1989 NHL Entry he selected the Russian Rocket Pavel Bure 113th overall. The Bure pick was highly controversial, but in the end the risk was worth the reward as Bure won the Calder Trophy as league rookie of the year in his first season and recorded three 50-goal season with the Canucks and would go on to have his jersey retired by the Canucks. Bure went into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
Linden was the most beloved captain in Canucks history as he is the franchise’s all time leading scorer and also had his jersey retired by the Canucks. Linden now holds the same position with the organization as Quinn did all those years ago.
“We have lost a great man. It’s a sad day for hockey and for everyone who loves our game. On this difficult day I am thinking about Pat, his family and his friends, and how much he will be missed. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for Pat. He was a great leader and always a teacher,” said Canucks President Trevor Linden. “He taught me how to be a professional on and off the ice. He taught me how to play hockey the right way, how to win, and about the importance of respect and loyalty. Pat’s impact on our city has been immeasurable. He was responsible for bringing hockey to the forefront in Vancouver. He brought the pride back to the Canucks and today his finger prints and impact are still felt within this organization.”
With his coaching banned lifted in 1991, Quinn earned his second Jack Adams Award that second as he guided the Canucks to the Smythe Division title. The Canucks repeated as division champions the following season in 1992-93 before appearing in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers. Despite finishing seventh in the conference that season, the Canucks, which Quinn had built, used his rough and tuff attitude to get past the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, and Toronto Maple Leafs in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Quinn’s team pushed the top seeded Rangers to a seven game series and came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup, but lost in the seventh and deciding game.
Quinn brought his winning culture to the Toronto Maple Leafs right before the start of the 1998-1999 season. Under Quinn the Maple Leafs made six playoff appearances, most notably making the conference finals twice. In his first season with the Maple Leafs he improved the club dramatically transitioning from a tight checking team to a speedy scoring team that reached the conference finals, losing to the Buffalo Sabres. He was named a finalist for the Jack Adams award, but did not win it.
After back to back loses to the New Jersey Devils in the conference semifinals, the Maple Leafs returned to the conference finals in 2002, but ended up getting eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes. Under Quinn, the Maple Leafs had consistently been contenders, recording three 100-point seasons and making the playoffs every season until his last, despite never advancing past the conference finals. The team has not been able to find the right coach since his departure.
Quinn’s international resume is one the best out there as well. He guided Team Canada to the Gold Medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, the country’s first gold medal in men’s ice hockey in 50 years. He was also behind the bench when Canada won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004. He also guided Team Canada to Under-18 Gold in 2008 and gold at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships. After his successes on the international stage, he got one more shot on the NHL level coaching the Edmonton Oilers for one season.
Everyone will have a different memory of Pat Quinn. For most he was either the coach of the Canucks, Maple Leafs, or Team Canada, but no matter what job he held he left an impression wherever he went.
The game of hockey lost a truly incredible man and his mark on the game will never be forgotten. You will be missed Pat.