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Q & A: FORMER FLAME DAN QUINN

Former 13th overall pick talks about pre-draft interviews with scouts at a McDonalds, running the horse track at Stampede Park during camp to show they were in shape, and his post-hockey career caddying for some of golf's biggest names

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Dan Quinn has fought for hockey's Holy Grail inside the cathedral that was the old Montreal Forum and trod the hallowed fairways of Augusta on Masters Sunday.

Selected 13th overall by the Flames at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, the centreman spent three seasons in Calgary, highlighted by the 1986 run to the Stanley Cup final against the Canadiens, a series the Habs won in five games.

Quinn's NHL career encompassed 805 regular-season games and 658 points scored on behalf of the Flames and seven other NHL organizations.

After hockey ended for him in 1996, he dove back into his other sporting passion, golf, in a big way, winning the NBC-televised American Century Celebrity Classic in Lake Tahoe on five occasions (finishing in the Top 10 a total of 18 times), then moving on to caddy for golfers the renown of the Big Easy, Ernie Els, and John Daley.

With the 2017 Entry Draft looming in Chicago, Your Flames Authority George Johnson spoke with Quinn from his home in Florida about his big day, rinks and the links.

JOHNSON: Your recollections of Draft Day at the Forum in 1983?

QUINN: I remember everything about that day. I was 99 percent sure I'd be picked by Calgary or Washington, who selected 14th. Slight chance by Toronto, who picked 7th. I lived in Brockville at the time, played for Belleville. Funny thing - the night before the draft I went and watched the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Expos at the Big O. Rick Rhoden pitched that game for Pittsburgh. I was 18 years old. Years later, I ended up playing against him in a lot of celebrity golf tournaments. Starting in 1991, I believe. We had a real 10- or 12-year battle against each other on the golf course.

Pretty bizarre, when you think about it.

The day of the draft I knew I wasn't going past Washington. They really wanted me. Calgary, I wasn't so sure about, based on interviews. The Leafs thing vanished when they chose, I think, (Russ) Courtnall at 7th. Then Calgary did pick me at 13. So that was the day of.

The day after, a cool experience. Steve Yzerman (4th overall, to, naturally, Detroit) and I - we'd known each other since we were seven years old - went to get our first-ever patented sticks made at the Titan factory in Montreal. That was a big deal, believe me.

Then we took the train back to Ottawa together, just the two of us, because our parents had already left for home.

A pretty memorable 48 hours.

JOHNSON: It's amazing how much power that moment, being drafted, the whole experience, holds for even the greatest of players.

QUINN: I was the first ever pick for the Belleville Bulls. A 16-year-old rated No. 1. I'm like: '(Bleep), I never knew I was that good.' I didn't even know people were watching me. I was just playing hockey to have fun. I just figured it would all take care of itself, which it did.

All of a sudden you're in Montreal. I'm sure the sophistication of the questions has improved since my day. I remember having a meeting with a Washington scout at McDonald's in Brockville. I remember him asking me: 'Why did you have only nine powerplay goals this year?' And I'm like: 'Why, aren't you counting assists?' I probably had 50 assists on the powerplay. And he was like: 'Hah, you're our guy!' That's when I knew I wasn't going past 14. Not to be smart, but that's how remedial the questions were. He didn't know how many points I had on the powerplay? Really? It was only like 'How many goals ya got?'

JOHNSON: First pro camp?

QUINN: I remember Bob Johnson made us run the horse track. Badger Bob was one of first guys to bring in physical fitness testing, MbO2 and all that. We actually ran in the sand where the trotters ran on. I get out there and I'm going 'What the -- …' It was two-mile run, in 12 minutes. That was the determining factor for being in shape.

That camp I remember I was very fit. I was very ready. And I was very anal about the equipment I got. But that team was so deep, there was very little chance I was going to stay. I ended up getting called up that year, though. I played in Cornwall one night then went to Quebec City to join Calgary. That was my first NHL game. Second game was in Washington, third in Toronto. After that, I knew I could play in the league. I think I had 52 points in 54 games after they called me up.

The next camp, I remember, the Saddledome had opened up and we were testing. And Gary Roberts, the first pick in '84, the year after me, couldn't do a chin-up. Not one. I think I did maybe 12. Jamie Hislop, he must've done 100. But Gary? Nope. Four days and they sent him right back to Ottawa. I remember him looking at me, kind of shell-shocked, and I'm like: 'That doesn't mean you can't play hockey, buddy, but this stuff matters here.' Now he's the fitness guru of the NHL, right? Weird. I tell that one all the time over beers at pro-ams.

JOHNSON: Thoughts on former Flames coach Badger Bob Johnson?

QUINN: One of the greatest minds, the most creative people, ever to coach the sport. His his passion for the game, his knowledge of the game … great lessons for an 18-year-old kid.

I still say we had one of the best powerplays ever. (Al) MacInnis. (Gary) Suter came along. Statistically, percentage-wise. I pulled it up the other day, it's still Top 5 all-time. Over 30 percent.

One thing I do wish now, looking back and having re-connected with Wayne (Gretzky), was I wish I'd better appreciated those two seven-game series against that Oiler team. I was a little too immature at the time. They were so good. And I got thrown right into it.

The hockey was so … barbaric. We played them twice in pre-season, eight times during the regular season - and if a game got lopsided, well, obviously, 5-on-5s, bench-clearing brawls - and then we'd play in playoffs. My first three years, twice I played the Oilers 17 times in a season.

Remember when (Sidney) Crosby got knocked out by that Washington guy this year? Back then, that next game, it would've been … vengeance. Forget the score. I'm not saying that's better or worse. But there was an accountability involved.

It was crazy. But a unique time. Two great cities, two great franchises. In those games, the team losing was going to lose hard.

JOHNSON: You were part of that underdog team that beat the Oilers and reached the '86 finals, only to fall to the Canadiens.

QUINN: I thought we had the better team. No, I know we had the better team. I was almost 200 games into my career by then. I scored the game-winner of Game 1 in that final, shorthanded, against (Patrick) Roy, if you remember.

We lost Game 2 - future Flame Brian Skrudland scoring a record nine seconds into OT - and that really hurt us.

But it was a heckuva run.

Montreal, they had Kordic, Nilan, tough guys, right? Well, our boys, Baxter, Peplinski, Timmy Hunter, those guys were not leaving that ice without Montreal knowing 'We're not done.' Can't do that anymore. That said, I'm a big fan of today's game. I think it's fantastic.

Looking back to '86 though, I would've been a 20-year-old Stanley Cup champion. I would've loved that.

But …

 

JOHNSON: How's your golf handicap these days?

QUINN: I'm still a scratch. I play some professional stuff. I'm gonna be 52 soon. I can't say I'm as good as I was 10 years ago but I still enjoy competing every now and then.

JOHNSON: You carved out quite a niche for yourself on what was then a very popular, much-watched, celebrity tour that included a lot of former and then-current athletes.

QUINN: When I was a kid I had scholarship offers to play golf. Loved the game. Loved it. I'd play hockey in the winters, take a spin on the ice once or twice a summer and play golf. I always had a decent amount of ability to play golf but I knew there was no future in it.

I went to Pittsburgh after my three years in Calgary and we missed the playoffs so all of a sudden you've got five months to play, not two, and then these (celebrity) tournaments began popping up in Lake Tahoe and other places. So I started to get back at it.

No regrets but the last year I played hockey I made $500,000 and he first year I retired I made $300,000 playing golf.

It was a bit of a quagmire, pursuing one hurt the other maybe but they're two things I'm very passionate about.

JOHNSON: A favorite round?

QUINN: I've shot 63 a few times but I'll always go with winning a tournament that mattered. Shooting 65 one time at a place called Black Diamond to get into a shootout was memorable. I played Lake Tahoe 23 times. Of all the hockey players people say are good golfers, I've won (the celebrity event) five times and Mario Lemieux won it once. Nobody else, since 1990.

JOHNSON: How'd the caddying option come about?

QUINN: Through opportunities, meeting people. It was something to do, a job, after the real estate crash in '08-09. It was having a guy like Ernie Els say: 'Hey, come caddy for me.' Then you see the money that's out there if you do a good job. I treated it completely as a professional.

It was a blast and at the same time it was very hard work. I've carried golf bags in Turkey, Malaysia, China, Singapore. 

I never thought when I was drafted first by the Calgary Flames that'd ever be doing that.

JOHNSON: Any particular round or tournament that stands out during your bag-toting career?

QUINN: The second time I carried for Ernie Els. In Shanghai. We stayed there the week before the tournament, had a good time, got to know each other. Tiger Woods was still there, this is '09 and he's still The Guy. Anyway, Sunday we'd gotten to 10-under, leading by one standing on 18 tee. Wound up losing by one to Phil Mickelson but I remember on 17, (Els) comes over and says: 'Dude, you're got to be so nervous.' And I told him: 'No. This is what I live for. Let's go.' He bogeyed the last and we lost by one.

I've won some tournaments with guys, had a lot of good experiences, but that was one round I'll never forget.

JOHNSON: Winning a golf tournament or winning the Stanley Cup? Which'll it be?

QUINN: The Stanley Cup. Unless I'm good enough to play in a Masters or something like that. And I'm not.

I'll take the opportunity of '86 again, one more chance to make a play in that series. 

One more chance like that …

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