July 13, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: The Mighty Pat Quinn

The following is an excerpt from my unreleased book: Remembering The 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Please see below for the full table of contents.

If there is anyone who is truly bitter about 1994 it is Pat Quinn. Whenever you hear him talk about 1994 nowadays, the former Canucks coach has trouble hiding his disappointment. Twenty years later, Pat Quinn is still sour about what how those playoffs ended.

Quinn was the architect of the Canucks success in the early 1990s, and most definitely in 1994. He was the coach, the general manager and the team president. This was his team more than anybody’s. He acquired all the key players. He pushed all the right buttons. But yet again he walked away with nothing to show for it.

I have always said I would be the happiest person if Pat Quinn were to ever write an autobiography. His career could fill volumes, though I would settle for the volume about the 1990s Canucks.

Quinn was a big, physical defenseman, and he quickly was tagged as intimidating and mean-spirited. He only played in 99 games in the blue and white, scoring just two goals while collecting 12 assists for 14 points with 183 penalty minutes. Quinn's most famous moment with the Leafs - and probably his entire playing career - came in an infamous game in which the big Irishman caught Bobby Orr, the league's best player, with his head down. Though he was tagged with a 5 minute major for elbowing, in reality the hit was clean but it devastated the superstar Bruin defenseman, knocking him out with a concussion. Needless to say Quinn made a name for himself around the entire hockey world that night!

Despite the stigma that comes from such incidents, Quinn, unlike some other players in history, was able to overcome that and prove he was a valuable hockey player and not just "the guy who clocked Bobby Orr." Perhaps that was in part due to the fact that he was moved on from the Leafs and got a chance to play a bigger role when the Vancouver Canucks claimed him in the 1970 NHL expansion draft. He played two seasons on the West Coast scoring 4 goals and collecting 14 assists.

The Atlanta Flames made the original Canuck an original Flame on June 6, 1972 when the expansion team from Georgia claimed the 6'3" 205lb native of Hamilton Ontario in their expansion draft. Quinn would go on to enjoy 5 seasons with the Flames as a steady, defensive, hard hitting blueliner.

Quinn retired in 1977 with 18 goals and 131 points in 606 games. He added an assist in 11 playoff contests.
Quinn would go on to achieve much greater fame as an NHL coach and general manager. He would twice be named the NHL's best coach. He led the Philadelphia Flyers to a record 35 games without a loss in 1979-80 and a 1st place finish before bowing out to the dynastic New York Islanders in the 1980 Stanley Cup finals.

Pat would end up in the sunny weather of Los Angeles where he brought some respectability to a very weak mid-1980s team. Each of the three seasons he was in Hollywood the Kings made the playoffs.

One of the most controversial events in hockey history occurred in December 1986. While still coaching with the Kings, Quinn, who had studied and became an astute lawyer in the few years when he was out of hockey (he has a law degree from Widener University, Delaware School of Law), signed with the Vancouver Canucks to be come their general manager and president effective the following season. In the meantime Quinn remained the coach of the Kings. The Kings of course cried bloody murder, and the NHL fined Vancouver heavily. However, after much legal hullabaloo, Quinn did end up in Vancouver the following season.

The Canucks were every bit as bad as the Kings in those days. But the mighty Quinn would build the once weak franchise into a Stanley Cup contender, only to fall one goal short in game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs. Quinn was responsible for bringing in such memorable Canucks as Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure, Kirk McLean, Jyrki Lumme, Cliff Ronning, Greg Adams and Geoff Courtnall.

Quinn was somewhat surprisingly dismissed by new ownership in Vancouver, although the team had gone downhill ever since that incredible 1994 Stanley Cup crescendo. Quinn resurfaced in Toronto and helped to bring respect back to the blue and white, the team he first broke in with 30 years earlier. Quinn had a bumpy ride with the relentless Toronto media at times, but he delivered results.

Quinn can come across as a pretty mean person at times - a trait from his old playing days. But ask anyone who's ever played for him and they'll tell you that he's the kind of coach who you will go through a brick wall for. Quinn, who is bigger than almost every player he's ever coached, commands and demands respect and hard work. In return he's extremely loyal, probably to a fault.

Such respect around the hockey world and his tremendous experience were two of the reasons why the gum chomping Quinn was selected by Wayne Gretzky to coach the 2002 version of Team Canada at the Salt Lake Olympic Games. Not yet able to hoist the Stanley Cup over his head, returning the Olympic gold medal to Canada for the first time in 50 years stand as his greatest coaching accomplishment.

All of Canada was happy for Quinn on that day, but especially fans of the 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Finally Pat Quinn had won the big game he so richly deserved. It was not the silver he had always dreamed of, but gold never looked so good.

June 11th/14th, 1994 - The Highs, The Lows

Bure-ing The Flames
The Russian Rocket
Captain Kirk

Shooting Down The Stars
The Elbow
The Mighty Pat Quinn
Cliff Ronning: The Little Man That Could

Be-Leaf It Or Not!
Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden
Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

New York: All The World Is A Stage
The Penalty Shot
Nathan Lafayette And That Damn Goal Post
What A Mess!
Doug Lidster: The Lone Ranger
It Was A Riot!

June 15th, 2011: Looking Back At 1994

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