A former National Hockey League head coach and player, Pat Quinn has spent a large portion of his life at hockey rinks.
As a head coach for 16 seasons between 1979 and 2006, he guided the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs behind the bench. During a professional playing career from 1963 to 1977, Quinn played defence in the NHL for the Maple Leafs, Canucks and Atlanta Flames.
As part owner of the Vancouver Giants, the 66-year-old Hamilton native is also no stranger to the Western Hockey League.
But until Wednesday, he hadn’t witnessed a game at CN Centre.
The head coach of the 2008 Canadian junior team which won gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships in January in Ottawa, Quinn travelled to Prince George to watch Game 4 of the WHL first-round series between the Giants and Cougars last Wednesday. The Free Press caught up with Quinn to hear his comments on the Cougars, the Giants, the junior tournament and the possibility of a return to coaching in the NHL.
How long have you been involved with the Giants?
“Since the first year (in 2001). (Giants president) Ron Toigo had a dream of bringing junior hockey back to Vancouver and he asked if I could help him out and support his bid. He was the owner in Tri-Cities at the time. I said yes I’d be happy to do that, so we lobbied around, went to the meetings, applied for the franchise and fortunately received it. I took on a small portion at that time, just to be involved. I’m happy I am. It’s been a lot of fun for me over the past couple of years going down to watch the junior hockey players. It’s exciting hockey, and Ron Toigo has put a good organization together.”
What do you think of the support that you’ve seen up here? Are you happy with what you saw from the Cougars, from their team, from the fans here?
“I’ve never been here before but I was always aware of the strong franchise that existed here and the great support from the area. I know the team fell on hard times as far as competitive edge for a few years, but it’s still a good brand of hockey and I hope that they continue to work on building their crowd. I know this is a good hockey area. Junior hockey is fun to watch. I know people want to watch winners, but you can’t always have a winner. If you go down to watch the game and how it’s played, you can still be a good fan and a good fan of the game.”
How special was winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa?
“We had a great bunch of kids. They came in, they worked hard, they put the Canadian sweater on so you know you’re going to get a great effort. I think because it was in Canada, the biggest thing was I wanted to back off the emotion a little bit so that we didn’t get so excited that we didn’t think out there. I like players that think, and we had a bunch of players that could think as long as they didn’t get too excited. They were terrific, we were excited early on and I think it showed. But we got control of our emotions and the one game was a little too exciting for me, as far as the (6-5 shootout victory over Russia) and the way it finished.”
What was your impression with Cougars forward Dana Tyrell, who made Team Canada before missing the tournament with a knee injury sustained in a pre-tournament game?
“I knew most of the boys that we had this time were a good skill level, not that Dana wasn’t, but what Dana did was bring some contact into the game. I thought that was really a necessary ingredient for our team, that’s why we were really counting on him. It was terribly unfortunate that he wasn’t able to hang around. I thought it was real classy that Hockey Canada brought him in at the end to be with the guys for the last game, and for the gold-medal game he was around to share that time with his friends. It must have been bittersweet because he could’ve been playing as well. Someone stepped up and played some physical hockey for us. (Giants forward) Evander Kane was his replacement and Evander played extremely well, and a young player, (Stefan) Della Rovere, stepped up and gave us some good physical play as well.”
Are you still interested in returning to coach professionally?
“I miss the last couple of years and the day to day, being around the players. I have no complaints. I’ve had a wonderful career and if it’s over, it’s over. But I still think that I’ve got something to offer and it’s probably the only championship I haven’t been part of winning, so to fill the resume out, I’d like to get a Stanley Cup before I ride off on the silver horse into the sunset.”