Pat Quinn, former NHL player, coach and general manager and former Tulsa Oilers defense-man passed away Sunday night in Vancouver, British Columbia after a long illness. He was 71.
The native of Hamilton Ontario spent 19 seasons as a player and 20 seasons as a head coach in the National Hockey League and coached the Canadian Men to the 2002 Gold Medal in the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
Quinn had three stints with the Tulsa Oilers in the late 1960’s. He played a total of 70 games from 1967 through 1970, scoring only six goals and 22 assists for 28 points in the era when defense-men were not heavily relied upon to score goals. He won a championship with the Oilers in 1968.
A tough defense-man known for delivering punishing hits, Quinn racked up 209 penalty minutes in Tulsa, and by the time he hung up the skates he served 950 penalty minutes in all.
Quinn played on four teams in the Central Hockey League (then known as the CPHL), and three National Hockey League teams. He is best known for a devastating open ice check to Boston Bruins defense-man Bobby Orr in 1969 when he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Orr had his head down as he was coming into the Toronto defensive zone and didn’t see Quinn hot on his heels. Quinn leveled Orr along the right side boards with a hit that knocked him out cold.
The hit has gone down in NHL history as one of the more brutal clean checks ever delivered.
In 1977 he retired as a player due to a recurring ankle injury. He moved behind the bench the next year as a coach where he did his best work in the game.
Quinn coached five teams in the NHL: Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. He made it to the finals in 1980 with the Flyers and lost to the New York Islanders, and again with the Canucks in 1994 losing to the New York Rangers. He spent the longest time as head coach with Toronto, coaching from 1999-2006. He was named the NHL’s coach of the year in 1980 and 1992.
His greatest professional achievement was coaching the Canadian Olympic team to the gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. He had a team of NHL superstars, Mario Lemeiux, Steve Yzerman, Chris Pronger and Joe Sakic to name a few. The underachieving Canadian team had suffered a loss in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano four years before and Quinn was brought in by the team’s executive director Wayne Gretzky to shake things up.
He was not dazzled by the superstars on the team and rode them hard. The end result was a defeat of the US Olympic team on their home ice on the final day of the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.