February 16, 2012
The Night Pat Quinn Knocked Out Bobby Orr
Normally a 10-0 blowout playoff victory hardly ranks as memorable. But April 2, 1969 is a night that Bobby Orr, Pat Quinn and the players and fans who witnessed the night will never forget. Neither will Don Cherry, who brings this night up on an regular basis on Coaches Corner.
On that night, the intense dislike between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs reached its peak. By the end of the night the Bruins had a strangle-hold on the playoff series, Forbes Kennedy set NHL records for penalty minutes in several categories, Bobby Orr had a concussion and the still unknown rookie Pat Quinn was introduced as hockey's newest villain.
Quinn, a big and aggressive blueliner still trying to establish himself in the NHL, was no stranger to the "gallery gods" of Boston Gardens. They had been calling for his head since late in the regular season when the much bigger Quinn and Bruins superstar Bobby Orr got involved in a heated after-the-whistle exchange. The resulting dog-pile never settled the issue, leaving the conclusion to be written at a later date.
That date proved to be a few weeks later in the playoffs. The game itself was no contest, as the Bruins had a 6-0 lead late in the second period. That's when Quinn caught Orr by surprise.
Orr was breaking out of Bruins territory with his head uncharacteristically down. Quinn showed a great read on the play, and pinched in at the blue line to hold the zone. Quinn slammed hard in to the unsuspecting Orr, scoring a clear knockout. Orr left the ice with a concussion, but played the next game despite complaining of pounding headaches.
The grainy video evidence of the hit is inconclusive at best, but many, outside of Boston anyways, believe the hit was clean. Quinn was assessed a 5 minute major for elbowing on the play, but ultimately referee John Ashley was penalizing him for hitting the game's greatest player, or at least for causing the resulting donnybrook. Forbes Kennedy, playing in what proved to be his last game, was front and center in the aftermath of the hit. When all was said and done he had set NHL records for most penalties in a game (8), most minutes (38 - since bettered), most penalties in a period (6) and most penalty minutes in a period (34). He was also suspended for three games, reportedly for punching a linesman en route to the locker room.
The Boston fans even tried to get in on the act. Quinn had to be escorted from the penalty box because some of the fans began hitting him. Garbage rained down in Quinn's direction. Finally police were brought in to safely escort Quinn to the dressing room.
Here's an interesting add-on to the story. After the game Quinn was sent into a bar to buy beers for the Leafs post-game bus ride to the next city. That was a customary rookie duty, after all. Well on this night they probably should not have sent him in alone, as several fans instantly recognized the new public enemy #1.
Fortunately for Quinn the fans wanted to celebrate with the big Catholic Irishman. Boston is the ultimate Catholic Irish town after all. The beers were on the house.