Pat Quinn's successful experiences working with junior-aged players gave him the itch to get back into the big show. The Edmonton Oilers were willing to scratch it.
The Oilers on Tuesday announced that Quinn, 66, is taking over as the ninth coach in the franchise's 30-year history and, surprisingly, former New York Rangers coach Tom Renney is jumping on board as his associate head coach.
Kelly Buchberger is staying on as an assistant coach and there is a chance another assistant could be added before the summer is over.
"The luxury that we have right now is two men that have led NHL organizations," an elated Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini said of Quinn and Renney. "We have two people here that have the coaching brainpower than can match any that we compete against."
This will be the second time Quinn will serve as Renney's boss. As the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Quinn hired Renney as the team's coach in 1996. Tambellini was working in Vancouver's front office at the time.
"This is not a one-man show," said Quinn, who has not yet figured out what specific duties each coach will be tasked with. "What I was pleased about when we were working to put this group together was the person. I know (Renney's) work ethic. I know his intelligence. I know his knowledge of the game. His personality is different from mine and hopefully we have those complimentary skills that good teams have."
Quinn last coached in the NHL in 2006, when he finished a successful seven-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won 300 games, a division title and brought the Leafs to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1999 and again in 2002.
After his tenure with the Leafs ended, Quinn wasn't sure if he would coach in the NHL again. But his passion never faded and after coaching Team Canada to gold medals at the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championships in Kazan, Russia and 2009 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ottawa, the urge to get back into the League was strong again.
"As I was trying to figure out, with no plan, what I wanted to do I found out that passion for the game didn't dissipate," Quinn said. "I knew I was too young to not be back in the game at some place. After the Under-18 and then the 20-year-old junior experience, I really knew that I wanted to be involved again. You never know if you're going to get an opportunity, but it came along and I'm very excited about it, charged and anxious."
Quinn has also coached in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Vancouver in a career that spans 31 years. He led the Flyers and the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1979 and 1994, respectively. He's a two-time winner of the Jack Adams Award.
Quinn is revered in Canada for being the head coach of the country's entry into the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. The Canadians brought the gold medal home for the first time in 50 years.
But his most recent experience coaching the Canadian junior-aged players could serve as arguably the best thing Quinn has going for him now. He is taking over a team that finished the 2008-09 season with 15 players who are 25 or younger.
If Quinn needs any help in getting acclimated to today's NHL, he needs to only look down the bench to Renney, who was the Rangers coach from 2005 until he was replaced by John Tortorella 61 games into this past regular season.
Renney admitted he had other opportunities, perhaps even to be a head coach elsewhere, but he chose to join Quinn in Edmonton because he's a big believer in the group philosophy. He does not at all look at his new role as being a step backward.
"You have to understand that when you're making decisions with respect to your own career you want to first and foremost identify with good people," Renney said. "This was honestly a no-brainer. This was a slam dunk."
Before Renney took over in New York, the Rangers had gone eight years without a playoff berth. Under Renney, the Rangers won 40 or more games three straight seasons, a feat that the organization hadn't accomplished since 1974.
Renney, like Quinn, also has a long history with Hockey Canada. He joined the program in 1993 and was the head coach for Team Canada in the 1994 Olympic Games. The Canadians took home the silver.
He has won eight medals, including three golds, in his international coaching career.
"Listening to Pat and what he wanted to do with this hockey club and then listening to Tom, I didn't know if I'd get both of them, but for both of them to be sitting here I'm grateful that they've accepted this challenge," Tambellini said. "I know the entire coaching staff will be successful. I can't think of a better way to begin."
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