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Pat Quinn: new audio interview with ex-Maple Leaf defenseman and long-time coach

Over the past fourteen months that Vintage Leaf Memories has been part of the blogosphere, I’ve tried to occasionally include some current interviews as part of what is available on the site.

Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to speak with former Maple Leafs Dickie Moore (also a long-time Montreal Canadiens great, and a Hall-of-Famer), Jim Dorey, late ’70s goaltender Paul Harrison and Hall-of-Famer Andy Bathgate, as well as legendary Montreal hockey writer Red Fisher.  All these interviews are available if you visit the menu on the right-hand side of the site, under “New audio interviews”.

Just this week, I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pat Quinn, who played in the NHL back in the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, before launching a coaching career that just may get him into the Hall-of-Fame someday.  I have a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Pat, but that aside, for all his critics during his time in Toronto while coaching the Leafs, he has an outstanding coaching resume.  Beyond being one of the all-time coaching leaders in wins in NHL history, he has coached Canada to an Olympic Gold in 2002 and  Team Canada to the World Cup championship in 2004.  He also coached the Canadian U18 side to the World Championship in 2008 in Russia and the World Junior U20 team to the title in 2009.  (My apologies if my years are off!)

I believe he has also been involved with medal-winning Canadian teams at the World hockey championships, has been to the Cup finals twice and also was behind the Leaf bench the last two times they made it to the ‘final four’.

He has often been criticized for his supposed over-reliance on veterans and his dislike for using young players, but the actual record shows something very different.  He brought along all kinds of young players in Philadelphia (Brian Propp, Behn Wilson, Paul Holmgren, Kenny Linseman to name just a few) and certainly did the same in Vancouver, including Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, Peter Nedved and many others.  In Toronto, his first year coaching the Leafs saw him bring three raw, rookie defensemen into the lineup right away.  That team went to the semi-finals that same season.

He hired and brought many of today’s most successful coaches and hockey executives into the NHL at the administrative or coaching levels— Brian Burke among them.

As a player, Pat was a physical defenseman with good size, who kept improving his game throughout his NHL career.  By the time he retired in Atlanta (because of an off-ice injury, as I recall) as the team captain, he was a team leader, a player rep, someone who studied and knew the game very well.  He went on to get his Law degree but was drawn back to hockey by Fred Shero to be an assistant coach.  He ultimately coached the Flyers and LA Kings, before taking over management responsibilities in the late ‘80s with the Canucks.  He built a team that he also coached to the Cup finals in 1994 against Mark Messier and the Rangers, one of the great final series in recent memory.

During our talk, I didn’t want to re-hash his time coaching I Toronto, so I focused in our chat on his playing career, going back to his days as a kid in Hamilton, Ontario.  Pat vividly remembers playing for and with some tremendous coaches and fellow players and discusses his many steps and stops on a long, circuitous journey that took him to his first NHL game in Toronto during the 1968-’69 season.

What stands out in our discussion is how important people are to him.  His fondest memories seem to be simply of the good people he played with and for through his many years in hockey.  (He even mentions an individual who I’ve written about in the past, a fellow I’ve referred to as my “hometown hero”, Marc Reaume, who Pat played with in Tulsa and later in Vancouver.)

The early part of the conversation provides a look at his youth and junior hockey experiences and his being part of the Detroit Red Wing organization.  The middle part of the interview deals with his time playing for Punch Imlach and the Maple Leafs in the late 1960s.  There is some very interesting stuff about guys he played with in the Montreal minor-league system (he was briefly part of the organization) and in the Leaf system as well.  I ask him about individuals who he remembers fondly as outstanding teammates during his time in Toronto.  Toward the end, he provides some noteworthy observations about coaching and player development, from the youth levels up to the pro ranks.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.




  1. Far more interesting than what is presented on sports radio. Lots more to discuss with Quinn as well. I wanted to hear more about those two years with the Leafs and the players and coaches.

  2. Thanks Jonathan. I hope to have Pat on again, and focus even more on his playing time with the Leafs in the late '60s.