When Pat Quinn played in the NHL the league was made up of mainly Canadian boys who would have played for free just for the thrill of being an NHL-er. “In fact, we did more or less play for free, “joked Quinn in an interview from his home in Vancouver. “Back then I was getting about the same amount as I would have earned working in the steel mills in Hamilton.” The Bay Observer spoke to Quinn on the occasion of his induction into the Order of Canada last month. Quinn was reflecting on a hockey career that saw him start out with the Hamilton Tiger Cub Junior team–a team that produced many NHLers; then graduated to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968, and go on to a playing career that ended with a broken leg in 1977 after stops in Vancouver and Atlanta. After obtaining a law degree Quinn then launched a successful 20 year coaching career for 6 teams including the Leafs amassing a career total of 684 wins and making playoff appearances in 20 years. Quinn capped it all by coaching Canada to Olympic Gold in the 2002 winter Olympics.
The Order of Canada cited Quinn’s charitable work as well as his hockey career. “It is something I always believed in”, said Quinn who arrived in Vancouver as President to find a team that had very little community connection. “I made it part of the player’s agreement with the team that they each adopt as charity and spend some time working with it,” he said.
Having been a hockey executive as well as a player Pat can see both sides in the current player lockout. “The owners invest a lot of their money to buy these teams and they are entitled to a return on investment,” he said. “But the players are what people pay to see. They have a special talent. In the end it’s going to come down to figuring out how big a slice of the pie each side should get.”
He still supports the idea of Hamilton getting an NHL team, and does not believe that Garry Bettman has a Hamilton-specific hate. “When the Canadian dollar was at 64 cents we lost two Canadian franchises (Quebec and Winnipeg), and that made the whole league leery about moving into Canada. Teams like Chicago who were having trouble filling their own buildings did not want visiting team from cities unfamiliar to American Audiences. He was at the table when Ron Joyce made his bid to purchase an expansion franchise in 1990. “Ron had a lot of support from the western Canadian teams including me,” Pat explained, “but the owners were adamant that the proposed $50 Million franchise fee was not negotiable. They figured if a new franchise carried a $50Million price tag, the value of all the existing teams would go up accordingly. They weren’t worth very much back then.” When Joyce attempted to enter into negotiations about the $50 Million entry fee the owners turned thumbs down. Ironically they ended up with Ottawa and Tampa—two teams that subsequently struggled financially.
Even though his parents have now passed away, Pat still pays attention to what’s going on in Hamilton. His brother Barry Quinn was a long time councillor in Burlington. He and his wife are close friends with Hamilton Businesswoman Maron Challe who is “like family” to the Quinns. Although he only rowed for a couple of years, Pat follows to activities at Leander Boat Club. Pat lent his voice to some radio commercials in support of Bob Bratina’s mayoralty campaign in 2010. “I used to play baseball with him at Mahony Park,” Pat noted. He thinks it is unfortunate that the city is playing hard to get with Hamilton Bulldog owner Michael Andlauer over a long term arena lease. “He has done nothing but put money into hockey in Hamilton,” Quinn noted. “Embrace what you do have.”