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Pat Quinn among 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

by Adam Proteau / Toronto Maple Leafs

As Ontario-born kids, Pat Quinn and Eric Lindros were thrilled to play for the Maple Leafs. And on Monday, the two legends received one of the ultimate honours any hockey figure can hope for: induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Quinn and Lindros join goaltending icon Rogie Vachon and Russian superstar Sergei Makarov as members of the 2016 Hall of Fame Class, which will be celebrated formally this November at the Hall in Toronto. Quinn will be posthumously honoured in the builder’s category, while Lindros, Makarov and Vachon will enter the Hall in the player’s category.

As Quinn’s family – including his daughter, Kalli, who participated in a media conference call after the announcement – has noted, Quinn always had a particularly special connection with the Leafs franchise and the city. Whether it was making his NHL playing debut with Toronto in 1968 and playing 99 career regular-season games with the Buds, or returning to the organization in 1998 as head coach and guiding the team to six straight playoff berths and two appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, the Hamilton, Ont., native deeply appreciated the chance to represent the Leafs and the successes he enjoyed in his time in the hockey mecca.

“He obviously loved every organization he was involved with, whether it was playing or coaching or what have you, but I do remember him saying he never thought he would be able to go back to Toronto – (and) to go back and do what he loved, just down the highway from his hometown, and (his parents) were alive then – and really enjoy it and take it all in, he loved it,” Kalli Quinn said Monday of her father, who also served as Leafs GM from 1999-2003. “He thought he would end his career in Toronto. He had one short stint (as a coach) after that, but he loved every second of it (in Toronto), whether it was good, bad or indifferent. He just thought that it was the most amazing experience that he had in the NHL as a coach.

“He loved Vancouver and he loved L.A. – every place was different – but Toronto was a little special, because it was so close to home.”

After nine seasons as an NHL player – including stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames – Pat Quinn began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1977. For more than three decades that followed, he worked as a coach, head coach, a GM and a team president positions, with the Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Canucks, Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, and with Team Canada. He earned the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach in 1980 and 1992, won an Olympic gold medal as coach of Team Canada in 2002, won a World Cup in 2004 with Canada, and won International Ice Hockey Federation gold medals coaching Canada at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship and at the 2009 under-20 world championship. In addition, when Quinn passed away at age 71 in November of 2014, he was Chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For Lindros – who played under Quinn at the 2002 Olympics and with the Leafs in 2005-06, Lindros’ sole season wearing Blue and White – the silver-haired Irishman was at once a throwback to a golden age of the game, but also a coach who recognized he needed to connect with his players in different ways.

“He was old-school,” Lindros said of Quinn, who coached 1,400 regular-season NHL games and posted a 684-528-154-34 career record, and made 15 playoff appearances as a bench boss. “I enjoyed playing for him in Toronto. He was good with handling personalities and getting the most out of his players. I thought he was a real personable coach, but still stern and sharp, and (there was) an old-school way about him on top of that.”

As one of the sport’s child prodigies, Lindros carved out a place in the Hall thanks to a 13-year NHL career that began when he was drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1991. The London, Ont., native, who was raised in the northwest corner of Toronto, went on to star for the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers – winning the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 1995 – before joining the Leafs as a free agent and realizing a lifelong dream. The 43-year-old finished his career with 372 regular-season goals and 865 points in 760 games, and still cherishes the brief time he spent playing for his hometown.

“Toronto’s a hockey town, and to be part of that team…it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Lindros, who had 11 goals and 22 points in 33 career games with the Leafs. “I’m sure that some people will talk about Montreal in the same breath, but for a kid that grew up in Toronto and around Toronto, that was certainly a wonderful city to have a chance to come home to and play a little bit.”

Entering the Hall alongside Lindros and Quinn are Vachon – a three-time Stanley Cup-winner who starred for Montreal, L.A., Detroit and Boston in 17 seasons – and Makarov, a dynamic and skilled winger who won two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships for the Soviet Union before coming over to North America in 1989 and winning the Calder Trophy as top NHL rookie. Like Lindros, Makarov finished his career with the Dallas Stars, but both men – as well as Quinn and Vachon – won’t be remembered for any one particular moment in time. The enormity of their on-ice achievements are what they’re being recognized for, and few, if any, will argue they don’t deserve to be.

The four men will be honoured from Nov. 11-14.

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