Pat Quinn: A Legacy of Hockey Greatness

Pat Quinn is dead at age 71. Hockey has lost one of its greats. The legacy that Pat Quinn leaves behind is one of greatness as a player, as a coach, and as an executive. The Hockey Hall of Fame announced Monday that hockey had lost one of its most respected individuals:

“It is with great sadness that the Hockey Hall of Fame, on behalf of the Quinn family, announces the passing of our Chairman, Pat Quinn, last night at Vancouver General Hospital after a lengthy illness. At this time the family requests privacy.”

Jim Gregory, Vice-Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame added:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Pat Quinn,” said Jim Gregory, Vice-Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. “Pat is one of hockey’s most respected individuals whose lifetime involvement as a player, coach and executive has made an indelible mark on the game, and our thoughts and prayers are with Sandra and all of Pat’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”

There is no question that hockey has lost one of its greats, an old-school player and succesful coach who was still contributing to the sport in 2014 as Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Pat Quinn the player

Some may ask, ‘Who was Pat Quinn? “The Big Irishman” played for nine years in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames. He was a solid, tough defenseman, capturing the hockey world’s attention with a vicious hit on the Boston Bruins’ beloved Bobby Orr. Let’s go back to April 2nd, 1969. Pat Quinn and the Leafs were down to the Bruins, and Orr skates up the ice to be greeted along the boards by the 6’3″ 205 pound Quinn and his perfectly placed elbow. A taste of hockey history for you, with Don Cherry commenting:

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In Cherry’s words, “Wham!” Bobby Orr was out cold on the ice, and of course a brawl ensued. Cherry boasted of “how tough fans are in Boston” as one of them reached over the wall and punched Pat Quinn. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail recalls that

While Quinn was given a major penalty for elbowing, and the hit touched off a brawl that saw Quinn require a police escort from the Boston Garden penalty box to the dressing room most observers thought it was a clean body check.”

Whether or not you are fond of the rough and tumble play, hockey in days gone by was certainly more entertaining. After all, most observers thought it was a clean body check. Are you kidding me? Anyway, Pat Quinn was often at the center of that form of entertainment, and the old-school hockey faithful will particularly mourn the loss of one of their own.

Quinn’s statistics as a player were not amazing. He played in 606 games over 9 seasons with the Leafs, Canucks, and Flames. He scored 18 goals and 113 assists for a career point total of 131. Overall he was a -3. In 11 NHL playoff games he had 1 point, an assist. He did not set the world on fire when he was on the ice, but he was a tough hard-working defenseman that will be remembered for his hard-hitting style. An ankle injury in 1977 led to his early retirement as a player.

Pat Quinn the coach

As an NHL head coach, Pat Quinn was at the helm for the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, and Edmonton Oilers. In his first full-season as head coach of the Flyers, he led the team to a 35-game winning streak and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost to the New York Islanders in six games. He was awarded the first of his two Jack Adams awards. Bob Carke, an executive with the Flyers and a player on that Flyers team said of Pat Quinn,

“Next to Fred Shero, Pat was the best coach who ever coached here, Pat was the first NHL coach who brought the wingers off the boards and had them swinging across the ice which was much more moving for the forwards. I think it confused the rest of the league until we lost in the Finals to the Islanders. He had everyone’s respect. He changed the game with that style of play. At that time, that was a pretty dramatic change in the game of hockey.”

No doubt Quinn left his imprint all over the NHL. He won his second Jack Adams award with the Canucks for his coaching in the 1991-92 season. In 1994, he led Vancouver to his second Stanley Cup Finals, this time losing in seven games to the New York Rangers. A fifth place finish in Edmonton in the 2009-10 season was his last NHL coaching stint.


According to in 1400 regular season games coached, he compiled a record of 684-528-154-34. His coaching point total was 1556. As a coach in the playoffs, he went 94-89 for a .515 winning percentage. Pat Quinn’s coaching success went beyond the NHL, also:

As a head coach, Pat Quinn had unquestionable success in the NHL and beyond. His legacy of hockey greatness will be left on the ice as a player and behind the bench as a coach, for sure.

Pat Quinn, executive

Most recently, Pat Quinn served as the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He also co-owned the junior hockey team, Vancouver Giants of the WHL. They announced his passing:

“Words cannot express the pain we all feel today for the Quinn family,” Giants majority owner Ron Toigo said in a statement posted to the team’s website. “Pat was an inspiration to all of us. He always said that respect was something that should be earned, not given, and the respect that he garnered throughout the hockey world speaks for itself. He will be sorely missed.”

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper spoke for us all in response to the sad news of Pat Quinn’s passing:

Hockey has lost a giant. The cigar-smoking Pat Quinn was often larger than life. On the ice and behind the bench he was one of hockey’s most significant and enduring figures. He was recently inducted into the Vancouver Canucks’ Ring of Honor for his coaching them to the Stanley Cup Finals. He was serving on the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee. The “Big Irishman” will be missed. His time on the earth, 1943-2014 was time that saw hockey grow in popularity and change in many ways. He never shied away from a challenge, and fought illness to the end with the same passion that he played the game he loved.

You will be missed Pat Quinn. Rest In Peace.