Pat Quinn set the standard for Dixon Ward. Taught him how to stick in the NHL.
“He’s the guy that taught you pretty quick what it meant to be a professional and how to conduct yourself on a daily basis,” said Ward, saddened by the news that Quinn died Sunday night at 71. “He demanded that out of his players and he certainly led by example.”
The impact that Quinn made on the University of North Dakota grad was the way he carried himself and communicated around others. Ward, who played 537 NHL games with the Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, said when people spoke to Quinn, they felt they had his attention.
“He was very good at making people feel important, making people feel like he was intersted in their stories,” said Ward, drafted by the Canucks in 1988 in the seventh round, 128th overall. “He certainly felt a responsibility to pass on his knowledge and experience to anybody that was around him. He was infectious in that way. You wanted to be around him because you knew some of that was going to rub off on you.”
Ward, vice president of the Okanagan Hockey Academy, played 106 games as a Canuck for Quinn and his greatest memory was Quinn’s overwhelming presence when he was around. Quinn was known as the Big Irishman.
“He commanded attention whether it was sitting at a table at a restaurant or speaking in front of thousands of people,” said Ward. “When he spoke, people listened. They hung on every word. Every story that he would tell. You didn’t want to miss it because it was always entertaining. One thing I will always remember about Pat is just enjoying listening to his stories.”
What Andy Oakes, president of the OHS/Academy, remembers is the sight of parents around Quinn in the dressing room. Quinn, a guest instructor at OHS, would bring his grandchildren to the school.
“I think the parents were more thrilled to see him in the dressing room tying his granddaughter’s skates,” said Oakes. “Them getting the opportunity to kind of meet Pat as a grandfather. Not as an NHL or Team Canada coach.”
Oakes described the former Philadelphia Flyers, Kings, Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers coach as a “larger than life type of guy.”
His first encounter with Quinn was in the mid-2000s while he coached Team Canada.
“I got introduced to him and shaking his hand and he was a mountain of a guy,” said Oakes. “His hand and body structure was like running into Mount Everest, and personality to go with it, right.”
Quinn was an amazing guy to be around, said Oakes, and said he possessed a special way about him.
“He had the uncanny ability to be able to communicate with anybody,” added Oakes. “When he was with us here, he was so good with the kids. So good with the parents. Just had to make time for everybody. ”
Oakes, like others, is saddened by the news of Quinn losing the battle with his illness.
Larry Lund, the founder of the OHS, played with Quinn in the old pro Western League Seattle Totems in 1966-67. Lund called Quinn a great team man and a good defenceman. He also played against Quinn in the Central League. Lund laughed before responding when asked what it was like to play against him.
“He was big and strong,” said Lund. “He didn’t give you any space.”
What Lund respected about Quinn was that he stood up for everybody. Another thing that stood out to Lund about Quinn was his commitment to his grandchildren Quinn and Kate.
“In later years that was a big part of his life, his family and his grandkids,” said Lund.
“I’m a grandparent and all I want is for them to have some fun,” said Quinn in an interview with the Western News in 2007. “If they have fun I’ll be really happy for them,” said Quinn, who played defence for the Maple Leafs, Canucks and Altanta Flames.
“Quinn plays all kinds of sports. For a young person that’s what I would encourage. Don’t get locked into 11 months of hockey. He seems to have a mind set for defence … My first granddaughter Kate, is a pistol. She is a great skater. She hasn’t figured the game out yet, but as an individual athlete you can see she’s got strength and speed she’s going to be a wonderful athlete.”
Lund said Quinn, inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002, was really personable and accommodating. He also noticed that Quinn valued his past teammates and relationships made in hockey.
“He loved to talk about the Oil King days,” said Lund, who also played for the Oil Kings, but two years prior to Quinn.
“One of the things that I really respected him for is his commitment to Hockey Canada,” said Lund. “He had a really close relationship with Bob Nicholson (former Hockey Canada president). Bob picked the phone up and asked him to do something for Hockey Canada and … I think it was always yes, I’d love to do it.”
In that interview from 2007, Quinn, who vacationed with his family in Penticton, said his greatest hockey accomplishment came in 2002 when Canada won gold. Quinn when he got the call to coach the answer was simple.
“It’s Canada’s team and it’s something you can’t turn down. I don’t understand how you can turn it down,” said Quinn. “If they asked me to carry bags I’d do that. It is probably the pinnacle of my hockey career.”
Oakes added that, “the hockey world and the world in general lost a pretty special guy,” one who Oakes said was a good friend of the OHS.
“His legacy will last a very long time in this game,” said Ward. “He’s one of the all-time great hockey people that this country has seen.”