Pat Quinn did pretty much everything there is to do in hockey, but to me he’ll always be the guy who coached the Leafs the last time they were consistently any good and the guy who helped Team Canada to its first Olympic gold medal of my lifetime in 2002. He was also the one behind the bench when Canada last won World Junior gold in 2009, a fact I’ll admit I’d somehow forgotten even though I remember watching a bunch of the tournament like I do every year.
Quinn went back to coaching in 1998 when he was hired by the Maple Leafs. Toronto went to the Eastern Conference final in his first season in 1998-99 and then again in 2002.
During the 2002 East final, Quinn missed two games with heart problems. At the time, he said he felt “lousy” about watching them on television.
The Leafs made the playoffs in Quinn’s first five seasons, which included a stint as president and GM.
“We had a lot of success playing for Pat, obviously, the years here with the Maple Leafs,” longtime Leafs captain Mats Sundin said. “As a coach (he) had a presence in the dressing room that demanded respect and had a way of talking and getting the guys ready for each game that really got the best out of the teams that he coached.”
That was evident when, at the 2002 Olympics, Quinn helped a group of all-star Canadians win the gold medal in Salt Lake City. It was just the second Games with NHL players but Canada’s first gold since 1952.
Quinn was also behind the bench when Canada won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004.
“He demanded and commanded respect,” said Mitchell, who worked under Quinn in Vancouver, Toronto and at international competitions. “Even the Olympic team, the World Cup team, he walked in that room and the superstars of the game were eyes wide open and wanting to be a sponge because this guy has so much hockey knowledge.”
Replaced as GM by John Ferguson Jr., Quinn was fired as coach after the Leafs missed the playoffs in the first season after the 2004-05 lockout and the first one in the NHL played under a salary cap.
My memory is foggy again, but I recall feeling like letting him go was kind of a garbage decision at the time. But I’d rather think about the good times because like the Pat Burns era, those were some good years. Especially good was the part where the Leafs took every single series in history against the Senators. If I were only allowed to appreciate Pat Quinn for one thing, it would probably be that.
I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll let George McPhee do it.
“Some people would measure their lives in the sports business by the trophies and the awards and the things they’ve won, but I think the real men can be measured by the impact they had on peoples’ lives and Pat Quinn had a tremendous impact on a lot of peoples’ lives in terms of them being good players or good executives but even better people. Pat was one of the most phenomenal human beings I’ve ever known. A lot of us feel really, really lucky that we got to work for him.” Quinn remembered as a straight shooter with a heart of gold