In an age of bad actors, there are still sports figures who have a positive effect on lives outside their chosen game.
The country lost one of those people on the weekend. Pat Quinn died in Vancouver on Sunday night. He was 71.
Quinn came from humble beginnings. He grew up in the rough and tumble east end of Hamilton, where he had a paper route for some time, delivering The Globe and Mail. Eventually, the rink near his boyhood home was renamed Pat Quinn Arena.
A tough customer in a time when everyone had to be a tough customer in the NHL, Quinn’s most famous playing moment may have been a thunderous check in the 1969 playoffs that provoked a bench-clearing brawl between Quinn’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. The target of Quinn’s hit, the player he knocked unconscious? Bobby Orr.
After success as a coach in Philadelphia, Quinn made his way to Los Angeles and then Vancouver, in 1986. He has worked elsewhere since that time, but always kept his Vancouver home.
After bringing in players like Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and Kirk McLean, the Quinn-led Canucks gave the province a thrill by getting to within one win of the Stanley Cup in 1994.
He also led the Canadian Olympic team to its first gold medal in 50 years in Salt Lake City in 2002.
As we see sometimes in sports, the biggest, toughest of them all can be the most gentle, giving people off the playing field or ice. As the tributes poured in the last couple of days, we hear more about his selfless work for Canuck Place, a children’s hospice.
Pat Quinn leaves many legacies across the country. He insisted the people he brought on board to work with him — players and coaches — be good citizens in the community. He also never stood in the way of someone who could advance their careers elsewhere. Current Canucks president Linden is one of those legacies and may be the only Canucks figure more loved and respected in this province than Quinn.
As a sports executive ages, pundits like to look at his tree, the branches that have sprouted careers for others throughout the league. Pat Quinn’s tree has many branches, but in the end it won’t be the hockey results that trace back to the roots of his tree. It will be the community-minded, selfless attitude he instilled in others that will enrich the lives of many for years to come.
— Editorial by John Harding