Skip to main content
Hall of Fame

Jim Treliving: Respect made Pat Quinn special

Longtime friend salutes coach, executive who will be inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame as builder

by Jim Treliving / Special to NHL.com

Jim Treliving was a longtime friend of Pat Quinn, dating back to Quinn's time as president, general manager and coach of the Vancouver Canucks. Treliving, the co-chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International Inc. and the T&M Group of Companies, also stars as one of the five Dragons on CBC's reality TV show "Dragon's Den." His son, Brad Treliving, is general manager of the Calgary Flames. Jim Treliving shares his thoughts on Quinn, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday as a builder, in a special testimonial for NHL.com:

Pat Quinn will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder on Nov. 14, and I think it's long overdue.

The reason I say that is that he's achieved so many milestones in his life and has done great things for hockey. He won medals for Canada when we had gone a long time without. I was at the Salt Lake City Olympics when that happened in 2002, and saw the difference he made for the team as the head coach. Years later, when they said he was past his prime and that he wouldn't be able to coach these younger guys; well surprise, surprise, Hockey Canada took him on and he led the Under-18 team to the gold medal in 2008, then did the same at the World Juniors in 2009.

I think the greatest thing is that all the players and coaches he worked with over the years respected him. I think the respect factor was there because when he walked into the room, he said, "This is how we're going to do it," and everybody knew what their job was. I think those are the things that really made Pat Quinn special. To me, that's why he should be in the Hall of Fame. He's up there with the greatest of them. There's that respect for him and he'd back you until his nose bled.

That's the way he was with his family and Sandra, his wife, too.

My beginnings with Pat go back to his time in Vancouver. I first met Pat when we were golfing at a Dave Barr and Darcy Rota golf tournament. That's when the Canucks were going through a terrible time; they had just brought him and Brian Burke in. How terrible a time? We were sitting there at the tournament and he had offered some tickets up for bidding and nobody bid on them. It was a bit embarrassing; we laughed about that many years later, when you couldn't find a ticket anywhere for the Canucks.

Pat was a great man. I had a lot of respect for him in the sense that he was a great friend and a great human being to be around. What you saw was what you got with Pat. There was no phony-baloney. He was a straight shooter, and if he didn't like what you said or did, he would tell you. He was that kind of a person. To be a friend of his was a great honor in my mind because he was the type of person you always wanted to be or be around.

That's what I liked about him. There was a lot of Irish in him, and there was always fun with that.

Pat, from the days he played and coached, he loved to tell stories about those times. He was a great storyteller. It was a thing to appreciate about him.

And I have a few I remember so well, things that remind me of him.

Pat used to ask my opinion on many things, and I did the same with him. I especially remember that we started the hockey league in the U.S., the WPHL. He asked me where all the teams were. I told him they were in small towns in Texas and Oklahoma and Georgia and so on. I told him there were a lot places you get to on Southwest Airlines. He said, "Don't tell me you're going to call this the Love Cup for your winning team." I recall the way he put the emphasis on the "Love Cup," like he couldn't imagine hockey with a Love Cup, talking of course about the airport [Love Field] in Dallas.

Another time, we were in Calgary after a game that night and I was meeting him at the Palliser Hotel after the game. He was there when I arrived and this lady came running up to him and said, "Oh my God, coach, I just love you and what you do." He said, "Well, thank you ma'am." And he stood and talked for a moment and she said, "Can I get your autograph, Mr. Burns? I just love you." So he smiled and signed it "Pat Burns," and to this day she probably doesn't know she was talking to Pat Quinn.

When he was working in Toronto, I had moved there also at the time because we were expanding our Boston Pizza business in Ontario. I remember being at a barber shop one day, in Bronte, and there was a picture of Pat in the barber shop. The barber said Pat was his favorite player. I asked him if he'd ever seen Pat play and he said, no, he couldn't afford to go. So I happened to have a couple of tickets and gave them to this guy. Soon after that, I was talking to Pat one day when was driving back from seeing his mother in Hamilton and I asked him to drop into the barber shop on the way back, so Pat did. He walked into the barber shop and said, "Where's Walter?" and I think Walter near collapsed. Pat sat down and got his hair cut. While he was sitting there, he saw he had a picture of Tie Domi on the wall, too, and he said to Walter, "Take that young fella down, he's not that tough." And we had a good laugh. That's what I really liked about Pat: He could talk to the plumber working in the basement of your house or the janitor of the building or the chief executives of any office.

Pat could be as tough as nails. I remember my son, Brad, telling me about that when he went to camp in Vancouver, and that you could smell him before you saw him because of the cigar smoke. Pat enjoyed his cigars until he couldn't do it anymore.

One of the toughest things for him was when he was out of hockey near the end. He didn't want anybody to know he was sick, and that was really tough on all of us. On this phone I'm talking to you right now, I still have his voice mail. He never changed his number after he went back to Vancouver, and I still have that on my phone.

We usually talked on Fridays. I don't know why, but I called that Friday and it went to voice mail the week before he passed away. I told him to call me when he got the chance, but the next week he died and I never did get to talk to him that last week. But the week before, he said he was doing fine and that he'd be back at it pretty soon.

He just never let on to anybody that he was really sick. Many people that I've talked to, I'd tell them he was a man's man. And he appreciated those around him. I doubt many people who met him outside of hockey didn't appreciate him.

He could walk into the room and be a presence, not just with his stature but simply by the way the man was.

Pat Quinn was a great friend and is an excellent addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

View More