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New era begins at Boston University under Quinn

by Bob Snow

A new era in one of the most storied college hockey programs began on Oct. 11 when David Quinn stepped behind the bench for Boston University for his first NCAA game against the University of Massachusetts.

Quinn has the unenviable task of replacing a legend. He took over from Jack Parker, who in 40 years with the Terriers set the NCAA record for career wins at one school with 894, won national championships in 1978, 1995 and 2009, and left his successor with some huge shoes to fill.

How does the 11th coach in BU history pick up where Parker left off?

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"Don't think about it," Quinn told "These jobs are tough enough. You can't think about who you are replacing and what's happened before you got there. I'm in a unique situation. When there's a coaching change, you're picking up a program that's broken and needs a rebuilding process. We're not in that situation. We came within a goal last year of winning the [Hockey East] championship and one bad stretch that costs the [at-large NCAA] tournament bid. We'll hope to avoid that little stretch they had in January and score one more goal in the Hockey East championship game."

Quinn is used to dealing with big -- and challenging -- stretches.

The Rhode Island native skated onto Parker's blue line out of prep school in 1984 as one of the most highly-sought defenseman in the country.

How high?

He was the 13th player taken in the 1984 NHL Draft (by the Minnesota North Stars) before taking his first NCAA shift.

But Quinn's hockey career was cut short. After his junior season at BU and a tryout for the U.S. Olympic team, he was diagnosed with a rare disorder: hemophilia B, which prevents blood from clotting properly.

After multiple surgeries, hospital stays, expensive treatments, and an attempted comeback in the American Hockey League and International Hockey League, he retired following the 1992-93 season without ever playing an NHL game.

At 26, Quinn turned to coaching, a road that has led him back to BU and the task of succeeding a legend.

"I think I've been very lucky in my coaching career," Quinn said. "Being able to coach at different levels; the diversity of my jobs. I started a program at Nebraska-Omaha, coaching at Northeastern before that, and in the U.S. National Program for two years with the Under-17 Team. Then coming back to BU at a high level [as associate coach] and being part of a national championship team [in 2009]. Then head coach in the [AHL] and assistant in the National Hockey League [with the Colorado Avalanche].

"I took all those jobs because they were great challenges; they put me in a better position to be a better coach. So when the BU job opened up, it was certainly something I was very interested in. I'm lucky and thankful it worked out."

BU had no shortage of applicants to succeed Parker at one of the plum jobs in college hockey. So why did Quinn win out?

The No. 1 criterion, according to Parker, was that his replacement had to be a BU alum.

Beyond that, Quinn "brings a different perspective now since he has been away for a while," Parker told BU's student newspaper. "He was one of three or four obvious guys. And then it came down to, 'OK, all of these guys are great. Who is the best?' David Quinn won that battle."

"The Daily Free Press" went on to chronicle a Quinn experience before Parker announced his retirement.

Quinn ran into three members of that 2009 national championship team: Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators, Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues and Nick Bonino of the Anaheim Ducks.

"Seeing those guys," Quinn quipped, "magnified the feelings he was having of wanting to get back into the college game.

"It really reminded me of what college hockey was all about," Quinn said. "I've moved around an awful lot. I'm here for the long haul. No intention of going anywhere. I will not seek any other jobs. I've been a lot of different places, and it's just good to be home."

How is he handling the butterflies as the new season got underway?

"There's always butterflies when you coach, especially 18 to 20-year-olds," Quinn told "You are so responsible for so many things beyond the rink. Until you are in the seat, you don't realize it. You can think you know as an assistant coach, but until you run the program daily, it's amazing, and gratifying and satisfying. One of the things that's great about college hockey is that you are able to build your relationships with your players and that continues once they stop playing for you. You can't do that in pro sports."

Those butterflies have subsided. BU won its opener by beating Massachusetts 3-1 on Oct. 11.

"The sign of a good hockey team is to win when you don't play great," Quinn told the media during his first postgame press conference. "I didn't think we played great tonight but I think our effort was there physically but I think we need to be a little bit more purposeful when we have the puck."

BU is 3-1-0 after its first two weekends, including a 7-3 rout of No. 2 Wisconsin on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.

"The next five years are going to be interesting in college hockey," Quinn told the Boston Globe earlier this month, "because there have been so many changes."

Quinn replacing a coaching legend is one of the biggest.

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