November 28, 2014

Pat Quinn's Grandfather Won Grey Cup With Hamilton Tigers

It's Grey Cup week this week. They say the Canadian Football League's championship is the second greatest trophy in Canadian sports. I must admit I could not be any more uninterested in football. In fact, as great a hockey fan as I am, I am a terrible sports fan.

But I found this story about the Grey Cup timely.

Pat Quinn, who passed away just this week, had a grandfather who starred with the Hamilton Tigers and won the Grey Cup in 1915, long before there was a thing called the CFL. His excellent football career was cut short by his enlisting in the First World War where he was a munitions carrier - one of the most dangerous jobs around.

His name was George Ireland - nicknamed Snooze because of his strange ability to fall asleep on command under almost any circumstance. He survived the war and returned to Hamilton where he lived until his death in 1964. Ireland, by the way, is pictured on the far right in the photo above.

Anyone who knew Pat Quinn knew one of his interests outside of hockey was Canadian military history, and now we know why. Quinn, who often cited war history in his pep talks and always paid his respects on Remembrance Day, had a very personal connection to the war.

Quinn also played football, and given his size he undoubtedly could have become very good at it. But his passion was always hockey. But there was a time where Quinn had to play football because he could not play hockey. 

After his grade 8 year Quinn decided he was going to become a Catholic priest. After spending a summer in a seminary near Niagara Falls, he decided he was not ready for such a life, largely because they prohibited his interest in sports.

By the age of 15 Quinn was offered a scholarship at the famed St. Michael's College in Toronto. Not only were they a top development junior hockey team for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they offered a strong Catholic education. It was seemingly perfect for Quinn, who had a strong interest in academics. As a NHL player he earned a degree in economics and later earned a degree in law.

There was only one problem. Quinn was from Hamilton, and that was Detroit Red Wings category. The Wings had already lost one such star to the Leafs thanks to his enrollment at St. Mikes - Frank Mahovlich - and they certainly were not going to let any more Hamilton boys slip through their fingers. Quinn was not allowed to play hockey.

Quinn still wanted to attend St. Mikes and did so for three months. He ended up playing football in that time. But ultimately his love of hockey saw him return to Hamilton where he returned to the ice, and, eventually, made it all the way to the NHL.

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