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Quinn Right Man For Canada

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
January 30, 2006

TORONTO  (CP) -- Pat Quinn has become one of the most revered coaches in NHL history even though he's never had a Stanley Cup champion.

Olympic gold has elevated his stature, and the halo will get even brighter should he repeat.

Quinn is the ideal choice to be in charge behind the bench because he doesn't over-coach, and because he prefers the attack-style hockey the braintrust again wants from Canada's team.

Pat Quinn looks to go 3 for 3 with Team Canada.
(Getty Images/NHLI)

Quinn will give his players freedom to fly, bark at the referees, and leave assistants Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Martin to nitpick about checking responsibilities.

It worked in 2002 so there was no need to change for 2006.

The irony in Quinn's quest for goals, goals and more goals is that he couldn't put a puck in the ocean when he played.

John Brian Patrick Quinn was born in Hamilton on Jan. 29, 1943, of Irish descent. He was a high school football star, and he also played baseball and soccer, but his future would be in hockey.

He helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the Memorial Cup in 1963 and, one month later, he was married. He and Sandra have been together for 43 years now and have daughters Valerie and Kalli.

A burly defenceman, he spent five years in the minor-pro bushes before Toronto gave him his NHL break in 1968. He gained notoriety during a 1969 playoff loss in Boston when he knocked Bobby Orr unconscious. Whether or not he had an elbow up remains in contention, but oldtimers have often replayed the hit over pints.

Quinn would play 99 games for the Maple Leafs before being claimed by Vancouver in the 1970 expansion draft. He moved to Atlanta in the 1972 expansion draft, and he was with the Flames until his 1978 retirement.

In 606 NHL games, he scored 18 goals, assisted on 113, and was assessed 950 penalty minutes.

They were the numbers of a journeyman, but Quinn had the brain of a leader and jumped right into coaching with Philadelphia in 1978-79. The Flyers of the following season went 35 games without a loss _ a record that still stands _ and Quinn was named coach of the year.

He was out of hockey temporarily after parting with the Flyers, and all he did was earn a law degree.

He went to Los Angeles as head coach in 1984, and in December 1986 signed an agreement to be GM-coach in Vancouver the following season even though he still had a contract with the Kings. The league prohibited him from coaching the Canucks for three years, but he went as GM and had the presidency tacked onto his portfolio.

Quinn took over as coach in 1991, was named NHL coach of the year in 1992, and built a team that in June 1994 would get within one win of the championship. The Rangers won Game 7 of the final, 3-2, in New York.

Quinn had a hip replaced in 1997 and he served as general manager of the Canadian team that won gold at the world championships in Finland.

In 1998, the Canucks cleaned house, and Quinn signed as head coach in Toronto. He soon assumed GM duties and held both jobs until John Ferguson Jr. was hired as GM in August 2003.

Quinn's weight was up to 300 pounds, he smoked cigars, and he enjoyed the occasional glass of scotch. He began experiencing breathing difficulties during the 2002 playoffs, collapsed during a trip to Carolina and was admitted to hospital.

An irregular heartbeat, or arrythmia, was brought under control with medication and by an improved lifestyle. He squelched the stogies, went on a diet and returned to the team 50 pounds lighter.

In 2003-2004, the Leafs set a club record with 103 points. Quinn then coached Canada to the World Cup of Hockey title. That made him 3-for-3 in international assignments.

The theme had remained the same: goals, goals, goals.

His burning ambition hasn't changed.

"My personal drive, what keeps me going, is to try and help a team win the Stanley Cup,'' he says.

Seeing his players succeed fills him with pride.

"It's like being a teacher who sees young students start to blossom,'' he says. "That is the real thrill I get in the job.''

At 63, he's the second-oldest coach in the NHL. Only Ottawa's Bryan Murray is older, and only slightly.

If there is anything that annoys Quinn most about his job it is the constant interrogation by the media. He's accommodating, but he'd prefer to sit on a park bench and watch the world go by than hear the same questions asked day after day.

In Salt Lake City four years ago, he'd park his butt on a bench outside his living quarters and chat with Canadian athletes from other sports, passing on career recollections and offering fatherly advice. Freestyle skiers, snowboarders and others used him as a sounding board. Quinn got a big kick out of it, and hopes to do the same in Turin.

The NHL job hasn't been all that pleasant of late. The Leafs are struggling to stay in contention for a playoff berth and, even if he gets another Olympic title, the year will be a big disappointment for Quinn if the Leafs don't get their act together when he gets back from Italy.

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