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Leaving his mark

by Jen Rollins / Vancouver Canucks
It didn’t take him long to make his mark.

At Pat Quinn’s inaugural NHL Entry Draft as President and General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks, the former NHL defenceman used his first pick on a young kid from Medicine Hat, Alberta: Trevor Linden.

That draft came less than 10 months after Quinn had taken the reins of the Canucks and laid his team’s foundation by acquiring rising star forward Greg Adams and a young goaltender from the New Jersey Devils. That goalie, with just six games of NHL experience under his belt, was none other than fellow Ring of Honour inductee, Kirk McLean.

McLean and Quinn then started a journey that included a Stanley Cup Final appearance and 11 seasons together that cemented a mutual respect between two of the greatest figures in Canucks history.

“Pat had a huge presence about him and still does to this day when he walks into a room,” says McLean. “There’s just kind of a glow about him and he commands respect in a good way.”

His aura and ability to command respect led to a long and successful career as a coach, team executive and player. He played 606 games in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks and Atlanta Flames. After collecting 950 career penalty minutes and landing a memorable hit against Bobby Orr, Quinn ended his NHL playing career as captain of the Atlanta Flames in 1977.

It didn’t take him long to get back into the game. He took his first head coaching job midway through the 1978-79 season with the Philadelphia Flyers. In his first full year, Quinn won a Jack Adams Trophy following the 1979-80 season when he led the Flyers to a record 35-game unbeaten streak and earned a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Whether as a player or a coach, Quinn brought the best out in those around him.

“He was an inspiration to his players,” says former Canucks defenceman Dave Babych. “You always want to be an inspiration to someone and he certainly was. Just the way he treated people, inspired you. There’s no way you didn’t want to play for him.”

McLean echoed that sentiment: “Guys really wanted to go to bat for him because he respected so much what you were doing and going through.”

And those Canucks went to bat for him. As Quinn stepped behind the bench for Vancouver, he earned yet another Jack Adams Trophy in 1992 and led the team to one of the most memorable playoff runs in franchise history in 1994. In a career that spanned 20 years--less than only three coaches in League history--Quinn’s time in Vancouver stands out and continues to have an impact today.

His former players and fellow management team members have gone on to hold significant roles in the NHL, including current Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis, Anaheim Ducks scout Steve Tambellini and Flames Associate Coach Martin Gelinas.

His legacy lives on as those he mentored continue to pay it forward. That legacy also pervades Canuck Nation as countless highlight reels feature some of the most electrifying talent Quinn and his management group brought to Vancouver, including Bure, Linden, Adams, Alexander Mogilny and Markus Naslund among many others.

After leaving Vancouver, Quinn went on to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, but most notably led Team Canada to multiple gold medals on the world stage. At the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, he coached the Canadian men’s squad to its first Olympic gold medal since 1952.

Two years later, he led the way to gold at the 2004 World Cup. Though his bid for an Olympic gold repeat as head coach in 2006 fell short, he did lead Canada to two more gold medals. This time at the junior level, he led the 2008 U18 team to gold and coached the World Junior team in 2009 as they went undefeated in the tournament. His ability to coach at all levels and all ages showed his versatility and ability to adapt.

“He was just a student of the game,” says McLean. “He adapted to the world class play—whether as Olympic coach or at the U18 World Championships. It’s impressive—going down to a lower age level and being able to motivate them and adapt to the younger players as well.”

Though Quinn is now retired from coaching, the accolades and achievements haven’t stopped coming. He earned one of Canada’s highest honours in 2012 as he received the Order of Canada and on Sunday, April 13th, he’ll become the fifth member inducted into the Canucks Ring of Honour.

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