May 25, 2016
His size and intimidating demeanour behind the bench was something of a false front for a man who was generous and affable away from the spotlight of coaching.
Indeed, Pat Quinn was a legend among the players he coached and the athletes he talked to, his “bench” at the Vancouver Olympics in the athletes village as important as any decision he made during the gold-medal game on the final day.
Quite simply, no coach in IIHF history won gold in as many events or won medals in as many events as the big Irishman. Quinn won gold at the U18 and U20 tournaments where patience and nurturing are the ways to success, and he won gold at the Olympics and World Cup, where a firmer disposition for the world’s best players is essential to success.
His bronze at the 1986 World Championship means he is the only coach to have won at an incredible five levels of play.
Pat Quinn came by his success naturally. As a player, he was a big, burly defenceman. He won the Memorial Cup in 1963 with the Edmonton Oil Kings and later made it to the NHL, playing 606 games with Toronto, Vancouver, and Atlanta, before retiring in 1977.
He moved quickly up the coaching ranks, joining Philadelphia in 1977/78 as an assistant and later in the season as the head coach of the Flyers. It was under his leadership that the Flyers went on a record-setting 35-game unbeaten streak in 1979/80.
Over the course of 20 years behind the bench, Quinn never won a Stanley Cup, but he was twice named coach of the year (1980 and 1992). He took the Flyers to the Cup finals in 1980 and the Vancouver Canucks as far in 1994, losing the latter in game seven to the New York Rangers.
It was while coaching the Los Angeles Kings that he got his first chance at the international level. When the Kings finished well out of the playoffs in 1985/86, he was asked to coach Canada’s World Championship entry, a team that included Marcel Dionne, Dale Hawerchuk and Denis Potvin.
That third-place finish was Quinn’s first and last appearance with Canada for 16 years, but his coaching career and reputation vaulted again while with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1998-2006).
It was in Salt Lake that Quinn became famous for enjoying a late-night cigar on the same bench every night in the athletes village where men and women from various sports and various countries chatted with him and listened to his experiences and his informal advice.
Quinn led Canada to gold that year, the nation’s first top-of-the-podium finish in half a century, and he replicated those efforts two years later at the World Cup of Hockey.
Although the Turin Olympics were disappointing for Canada, Quinn happily accepted the challenge to coach the nation’s U18 entry in 2008. Despite having no junior experience, he guided the teens to gold. One year later, he did the same at the World Junior Championship.
Quinn passed away a young 71, but his legacy lives on in his achievements behind the bench with those players he coached and his influence on many more athletes away from the ice. His personality, his hockey smarts, and his competitive spirit make him one of the legends of the coaching fraternity.
“Of all the people I’ve known in the game of hockey, I never met anyone who worked at it harder or loved it more than Pat Quinn,” said Wayne Gretzky.
“My father always said they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Quinn’s daughter Kalli. “He cared but he also wanted to know as much as he could about the game of hockey.”
Other members of the IIHF 2016 induction class included former NHLers Sergei Fedorov, Peter Bondra, Valeri Kamensky and Ville Peltonen along with American coach Ben Smith.