Quinn is most renowned for his tenure as a coach. He was behind the bench for five National Hockey League clubs between 1979 and 2010, landing in the Stanley Cup Final twice and winning the Jack Adams Award in 1980 and 1992.
Born in Hamilton, Quinn also put in a heck of a career as a player. He was a defenceman for nine seasons, having been called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs for his first NHL game in 1968. Quinn made a mark when he checked the one and only Bobby Orr in the 1969 playoffs, leaving the iconic defenceman unconscious. The hit was controversial, but even years later Quinn maintained he “led with the shoulder.”
Quinn retired from playing in 1977 after falling off one of his daughter’s skateboards. The subsequent ankle injury was enough to put the kibosh on his playing career and that was that.
But then opportunity knocked with the Philadelphia Flyers and Quinn was named an assistant coach under Fred Shero. He was head coach of the AHL Maine Mariners and then became the head coach of the NHL club later that season in time for a 1979-1980 season that included a 35-game unbeaten streak climaxing in a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. That, by the way, won Quinn his first Jack Adams Award.
He was released by the Flyers following the 1981-1982 season and subsequently attended law school at Chester’s Widener University, but the NHL bug bit again and Quinn was hired as head coach for the Los Angeles Kings in 1984.
To say the least, things did not end well for Quinn and the Kings. Three years later, he was with the Vancouver Canucks as president and general manager. He was responsible for bringing in goalie Kirk McLean (and Greg Adams) from the New Jersey Devils in a September 1987 trade. Quinn also drafted Trevor Linden in 1988 and picked Pavel Bure in 1989. The latter was another controversial pick.
By 1991, Quinn had returned to coaching and finished off the 1990-1991 season with the Canucks. He was behind the bench for the famed 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
In 1998-1999, he took over as coach and general manager for the Maple Leafs. In each of his first six seasons with the club, he took them to the post-season. When they missed the playoffs in 2005-2006, he was fired and wound up coaching the Edmonton Oilers for a brief spell before finally wrapping things up.
Quinn’s international presence was also undeniable, serving as coach of Team Canada for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and winning a gold medal – their first since 1952. He also helmed Team Canada to victory at the 2004 World Cup and coached at the Olympics again in Turin in 2006.
The Big Irishman was fiercely protective of his teams, his players and his game. He was funny. He complained about referees. He was adept at handling the media, even in the traditionally tough markets, and he had a one-of-a-kind mind for the game. He was passionate. He was a lion and he will forever be remembered as one of the finest men in the game.