A statue of the late Pat Quinn was unveiled at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.
Quinn played for the Canucks in their very first two seasons in the league from 1970-1972, became President/GM in 1987 and coached the club between 1990-1996, bringing them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.
If you’re a Rangers fan, you probably know a thing or two about that year.
But this story takes place in 2014, 20 years after that seven-game final series that saw the Blueshirts lift the prettiest looking trophy in all of sports for the first time in 54 years. This story centers around the team that lost — the scrappy Canucks, edging into the playoffs that year as the sevenths seed in the conference, battling through seven opening-round games against Calgary, shutting down Dallas and Toronto before meeting the Rangers.
I found myself at BC Place in Vancouver covering the Heritage Classic. Like the Winter Classic, this game is an out of the ordinary, extra-marketed affair which is also held outdoors. The “Heritage” part signals a tilt between two Canadian teams — the first such game happened in 2003 in Edmonton between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.
As is tradition, these types of games bring out the alumni. This particular game reunited many of the 1994 Vancouver Canucks squad: captain (and current president of the team) Trevor Linden; goaltender Kirk McLean; defenseman Dave Babych; and many others. A unique press conference was held where the players, legends in the city of Vancouver, stood behind their coach, Pat Quinn.
Quinn talked about his time in the NHL and coaching several teams, but you could tell he loved that city. He loved Vancouver.
Then he talked about the ’94 Final.
“We were the better team. We should have won that series,” he said. I might be paraphrasing the quote, but that was 100 percent the sentiment. Players behind him nodded their heads.
After all these years, Quinn was still passionate about that series. In 1994, he embodied the entire Canucks franchise as their president, GM and head coach. He was responsible for bringing all of the necessary parts together to make that team great, including Linden, McLean, Pavel Bure, Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall and more.
It just goes to show you how tough it truly is to win a Stanley Cup and what an achievement it was for the Rangers to pull it off that year. Quinn, one of the best coaches of his generation, never hoisted one in his career. Though there were a lot of smiling faces in Vancouver when Quinn coached the men’s Olympic team to the gold medal in 2002, his biggest achievement behind the bench.
And there will be a lot of smiling faces in Vancouver when they walk by his statue as well.