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Pat Quinn: A Love the Vancouver Canucks & Toronto Maple Leafs Share

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Vancouver Canucks, Pat Quinn
Former Vancouver Canucks Coach Pat Quinn in 2002.

Simply put, fans of the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs would not necessarily care too much for one another’s hockey club. In most cases that’s putting it very mildly. But on this long, sunny, Canadian holiday weekend, we remember one thing the two groups share in common, a love for their former head coach Pat Quinn.

Quinn passed away in Vancouver in November of 2014 at age 71.

VHN began writing this reflection on Canada Day weekend during a visit to Toronto and after speaking to a few of his dearest associates. What we started on one very-Canadian weekend, we complete on another. We also wanted to have a chance to snap an extra photograph or two of his statue outside of Rogers Arena.

The conversations began this summer because of his association with the Hockey Hall of Fame – he was the former chairman and a 2016 posthumous inductee – around a time when the Sedin boys and Roberto Luongo had been successfully elected for the November 2022 induction.

The Big Irishman

Kelly Masse is a legend in her own right for her hospitality and kindness to all of the inductees over the last two-plus decades. Actually the Director of Corporate and Public Relations at the Hall, she worked closely with Quinn during his time there.

“I knew Pat Quinn as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee since 1998 and would see him a few times a year when the committee met,” Masse recalled. “When he became the Hall’s Chairman of the Board in 2013 I spent more time with him. I was a fan long before I met him. He didn’t disappoint. He was equally funny and focused. He had such a large and commanding presence whether he was announcing Hall of Fame news, or walking around the streets near the Hall. I never tired of someone’s reaction upon spotting Pat Quinn on the street. I’m sure it was the same in Vancouver.”

Blake Corosky, a former IMG agent for the likes of NHL’er Brett Hull and golfer Mike Weir, opened his own agency about two decades ago. He got to know Quinn through family, hockey and marketing connections in Niagara Falls and eventually became his agent for all things not directly related to hockey contracts. Quinn’s accountant handled his hockey deals.

“I wanted to be Pat Quinn when I grew up,” Corosky said, “and I finally met him when I was 32. Pat was easily the most principled person I have ever met. His generosity and examples of integrity, honesty, and character are still impacting those he came across.”

Vancouver Canucks, Pat Quinn

The statue of the coach outside Rogers Arena, facing Pat Quinn Way. His quote reads “Obey your passion, listen to your heart, follow your dreams.”

“I was walking Pat to a press conference we were having within the Hall,” Masse remembers. “He stopped in front of a large display; the backdrop of the display was a large picture of him and two teammates from the 70’s, with full 70’s hair and moustaches and plaid pants. I asked, ‘I wonder what you were thinking when this picture was taken?’ Pat answered, ‘probably how ugly we were.'”

“Smart, funny, big-hearted Irishman,” she added

The Speech

Most of us are familiar with Quinn’s CV. He never quite got over the Stanley Cup hump as a coach. He came close with the Vancouver Canucks in 1994, losing to the New York Rangers in the Final in seven games, after doing the same thing fourteen years earlier, his Philadelphia Flyers falling in six games to the New York Islanders in the 1980 Final.

Maple Leafs fans loved his hard nosed run from 1998 to 2006, twice losing in the Eastern Conference Final.

He’d go on to coach Canada to Gold Medals in both the Olympic Games and in the World Junior Championship.

I had interviewed Quinn on a couple of occasions on television. It was a couple of years after those opportunities that I had the chance to actually hear him speak live in long form.

I was in Laredo, Texas as a guest of, and the emcee for, the Central Hockey League post-season banquet in 2005 during the NHL lock-out. Quinn was the keynote speaker at the party in the rink the night before the banquet. While many of the fans flitted around and only sort of paid attention, the hockey people, including all of the minor league players in attendance, we’re riveted.

I recall thinking, “holy $%#?@, I would run through a wall for this guy!!” He had a commanding presence that gave us a good idea of how his NHL players must have felt.

A couple of contract-related controversies aside, that occurred off-ice with the Vancouver Canucks when he was President and General Manager, Pat Quinn was the consummate professional, a former NHL player, coach, executive, and an inspiration to millions.

Sometimes it just nice to remember those who tend to drift from our memories, and this weekend seemed as good a time as any.

Enjoy the rest of your long weekend Vancouver Canucks fans. And Maple Leafs and Team Canada fans as well.

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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