TORONTO – Pat Quinn knew it was an innocent mistake, especially at the outset of a weekend meant to celebrate hockey’s greats.
But after the 66-year-old was referred to as a “retired coach” during an event at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday, he made sure to set the record straight.
“I am not retired at this point,” Quinn said in an interview. “I’m not working as much as I have in the past, but you know what? I have no complaints.
“If there was something come along that got me more involved, I’d be happy for that too.”
The something he has in mind is a return behind the bench. Quinn has spent parts of 20 seasons as a NHL head coach, including last year in Edmonton.
Over the summer, he was sent upstairs by the Oilers brass, becoming a senior hockey adviser while Tom Renney took over coaching one of the league’s most inexperienced teams. No one really viewed it as a promotion—particularly Quinn.
One thing that hurts him is the suggestion he doesn’t work well with younger players. Even though it’s something Quinn has heard throughout his career, he figured it might go away after leading Canada to gold medals at the world under-18 championship and world junior championship in recent years.
“I’ve always been considered a players’ coach,” said Quinn. “So later on when they said I don’t handle the young kids and all that, well that was baloney. I took those young kids internationally and we succeeded very well and we got along very well.
“Just because the age is difference is there doesn’t mean the message isn’t getting through.”
Some of Quinn’s current work involves interacting with young players. He recently paid a visit to the American Hockey League team in Oklahoma City and assists with individual development plans given to prospects.
Even though the Oilers finished 30th overall during his one season as coach—paving the way for them to draft Taylor Hall—he still enjoyed the experience. In fact, there’s no hint of any ill will when Quinn talks about the organization, which he describes as being on the “right track.”
“It’s a great place to be, the fans are terrific and it’s still an organization that’s highly accomplished and has a great history,” said Quinn. “Really a lot of kids are very proud playing there. I think they’ve got some real nice young players now that are going to just get better.”
Quinn is a true hockey lifer. With more than 600 NHL games as a player and another 1,400 as a head coach, he’s literally spent decades in the dressing room.
Now removed from that setting, he misses the daily interaction with players. But he hasn’t lost hope that the phone might ring with another coaching opportunity.
“It’s been my life,” said Quinn. “As I’ve said before, there was a big void after I lost my job here in Toronto (in 2006). When you don’t think of it as a job—it’s a way of life—and suddenly it’s gone, (it’s tough). I really miss being involved, I was happy for that opportunity in Edmonton last year.
“Heck, I’m a little bit older but not too old to not want to be involved.”
Quinn was joined at the Hockey Hall by fellow members Johnny Bower and Billy Smith on Friday. They took part in the official opening of a new store and expanded section devoted to international hockey.