(featured image, left-to-right: Tom Renney, Kalli Quinn, Jim Gregory, Serge Savard, Curtis Lazar, Matt Duchene)
Pat Quinn patrolled the Leafs blue line for 99 regular season games, infamously crushing Bobby Orr during the 1969 playoffs.
Behind the Toronto bench, his 300 career wins are second in franchise history only to Punch Imlach.
Quite simply, “he was a Leaf.” That was the sentiment echoed by his daughter Kalli, accepting the Order of Hockey in Canada on behalf of her late father in Toronto on Wednesday.
Hockey Canada also recognized former Leafs general manager Jim Gregory and Montreal Canadiens and Team Canada alumnus Serge Savard for the honour.
While Quinn never won a Stanley Cup in the NHL – advancing to the finals with both Philadelphia and Vancouver – he tasted championship success at the international level.
Quinn coached Team Canada to its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. He followed up that victory by guiding Canada’s world juniors to gold in 2009, on home soil in Ottawa.
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“I think he would be humbled by the honour,” Kalli Quinn said. “He would probably say ‘I’m just the lucky one to be standing up here, because of all the players and staff that I worked with that afforded me these opportunities.’”
In 2002, after the Canadians jubilantly celebrated their gold medal win over the United States, Pat and Kalli Quinn posed for photos alongside the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jarome Iginla and Joe Sakic. Kalli remembers the moment quite vividly.
“Someone that worked with the team saw us in the stands and brought us down,” she said. “So it was my mom (Sandra), my sister (Valerie) and me. We were just standing on the bench, watching everybody have a great time, and celebrating as they should be.
“Dad didn’t know we were there, and then all of a sudden he spotted us. So we had that little chance on the ice as a family to really celebrate what the team achieved. And he grabbed me, and to this day, every time I hear the Canadian anthem, I’m in that moment standing on the ice with him. I get goose bumps, but there’s nothing more exciting than seeing your country’s flag being raised, and your anthem being sung.”
Later that spring, Quinn and the Leafs advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Final after a pair of bitterly-fought seven-game series against the Islanders and Senators. Toronto bowed out to the Carolina Hurricanes in six games. The Leafs haven’t advanced to the final four since then.
It was the second conference final appearance for Toronto during Quinn’s tenure as coach. Three years earlier the team was ousted by Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. That 1998-99 season was also earmarked by the move into a new arena.
“I remember how bittersweet it was for him to move from Maple Leaf Gardens, where he played and had the opportunity to coach, and then move over to the Air Canada Centre,” said Kalli Quinn of her father. “That was the next era. He was involved in all that. He didn’t want to leave where he played, and what was so iconic in the city. But he was looking forward to building a new tradition, or extending the tradition that was already in place.”
Quinn assumed the dual role of Leafs coach and general manager for four seasons, ending in 2002-03 while retaining his duties as bench boss. He was fired at the end of 2005-06 after posting a franchise-best .591 winning percentage over 574 games.
In January 2009, Quinn led a group of teenagers including John Tavares and Jordan Eberle to Canada’s fifth straight gold medal at the World Juniors. The highlight for Canadians was Eberle’s game-tying goal against Russia in the semi-finals with 6.4 ticks left on the clock.
However the coach relished the off-ice moments as well.
“They had a chance to go to Petawawa to do some team bonding beforehand,” Kalli Quinn said. “And they did the simulation of jumping out of a helicopter and he was the first one down! He just enjoyed every part of it. He was just there to take in the experience, as the kids were.
A lot of people thought it may not work because of the age difference. But, he learned as much from those kids as hopefully those kids learned from him. He had a great time with them.”
Whether the teams he coached wore a blue or a red maple leaf, Quinn – a two-time Jack Adams Award winner – will always be remembered for the strong work ethic that he instilled in his players.
Now that he has been rightly honoured by Hockey Canada, a nomination into the Hockey Hall of Fame shouldn’t be too far behind.
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