VANCOUVER -- For the family of Pat Quinn, honoring the former Vancouver Canucks player, coach, general manager and president with a statue for fans to look at was never going to be enough. To truly capture the spirit that made the Hockey Hall of Famer such a big part of hockey and life in Vancouver, it needed to offer a chance to interact with him.
That's exactly what they hope to capture with a life-sized, bronze statue of Quinn, who died at the age of 71 on Nov. 23, 2014. It will be unveiled in the plaza in front of Rogers Arena on Saturday, about 45 minutes before the Canucks play the Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN).
The statue depicts Quinn behind the bench coaching the Canucks during their run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, with a warm smile on his face, the lineup card he in his left hand as always and his right hand reaching out in an inviting manner. The bench is also included, allowing fans to have a seat and take a picture with the statue of Quinn, who never hesitated to do the same with them.
"It's almost like his presence is still there, like his aura is still there and he will still be interacting with fans and that's something he always loved," said his daughter Kalli Quinn. "He loved interacting with anyone that wanted to talk to him, whether it was a co-worker, one of his peers, or the fans. He just loved it. This will give people an opportunity that never had a chance to meet him to interact somehow with him in a lasting way."
Dubbed "Pat's bench" by the small group of family, friends, colleagues and business partners that commissioned the statue as part of a larger legacy project honoring Quinn's impact on hockey and Canadians, the concept came from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where Quinn coached Canada to its first hockey gold medal in 50 years. Between games and away from the spotlight of the rink, Quinn would sit on the same bench outside of Canada House and athletes from various sports would stop to chat.
"He showed us the bench and said, 'I sit here every night and have my cigar and talk to all the athletes,' and he loved that," Kalli said. "Obviously, he was there with one goal in mind and that was a gold medal, but he was actually really excited to interact with all these athletes and coaches and team personnel because it was something that was bigger than the hockey team and he did what he did best, which was talk to people and get to know them."
You didn't need to be an Olympian or NHL player to get Quinn's time or ear.
"He would be walking around town and if somebody recognized him, he'd have no problem talking hockey or life in general," said former Canucks goalie Kirk McLean, who, like all members of the 1994 Cup Final team, has his name engraved on the lineup card Quinn is holding in the statue. "He was very accommodating and open for discussion, not only with people from the hockey world but with people in general. That's just the way he was, very inviting."
The statue and bench capture that spirit of inclusion, but it may be harder to encapsulate the sense of presence and high regard that followed Quinn into any room.
"I've had several people say they've never seen anything like it, where he walked in and there was an immediate respect response," McLean said. "He was a gentleman, always had a smile on his face and there was just something about him, almost like a glow around him when he walked into a room that commanded that attention. I don't think he tried to do it, he didn't intentionally go into a room saying, 'OK I am taking over the room,' that's just the way he was."
Posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame as a builder in 2016, Quinn had a lengthy list of accomplishments. He played 606 games as a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canucks and Atlanta Flames, then coached 1,400 more over 20 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Canucks, Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, winning 684 games, eighth most in NHL history.
Quinn won the Jack Adams Award twice as the League's top coach (1980, 1992), coached both the 1993-94 Canucks and the 1979-80 Flyers to the Cup Final and is widely credited with saving the Vancouver franchise, serving as president and general manager from 1987 to 1997, with two coaching stints in that span. There is more to his legacy, though; the extended hand of the statue could represent reaching out to the community, something Quinn did in Vancouver and elsewhere.
"He was such a big community guy and he really brought that back to the organization," said McLean. "And it rubbed off on Brian Burke and Steve Tambellini and Dave Nonis, guys that went on to become GMs in other places and continue that cycle."
And now members of the Vancouver community will be able to sit on "Pat's bench," with Quinn's inviting arm and warm smile over their shoulders.