AHL an important step in Quinn’s eyes Posted by IceCaps on
Legendary coach says IceCaps poised for success with strong leadership core
By Dave Salter, Director of Communications
Pat Quinn never played in the American Hockey League but launched his 20-year NHL coaching career in the AHL and oversaw a slew of the league’s franchises as an NHL general manager.
So, the 70- year-old has experienced first-hand the pivotal role the AHL plays in developing players, coaches and front-office personnel for the National Hockey League.
A hard-nosed defenceman in the 1970s with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames, Quinn turned to coaching when his playing days ended in 1977. The Hamilton, Ontario native was offered his first head-coaching job by the Philadelphia Flyers, who tabbed him to skip their AHL affiliate – the Maine Mariners — in 1978.
Quinn, who recently spoke to members of the St. John’s Board of Trade at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland, says that year spent in the AHL helped mold him into the successful NHL coach he would become just one season later with the Flyers.
“It was a new learning curve,” says Quinn of his days in Portland, Maine.
“I had never run a team on my own. As a player I was always a student of the game and now I was entering a new role that I didn’t know a lot about but I was going to find out about. I did all the studying and reading I could.
“Preparation was really big for me and communication with the players. I wanted to be a player-style coach. So I had the open-door policy. When I played you’d never dare go into see the coach or manager at all. But I didn’t think that was the way to go and that wasn’t my style. But I think the biggest thing about that year in Maine was learning about myself.”
After stints as coach with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings, Quinn’s first foray into running an American Hockey League franchise came during his time as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks in the late 1980s. The Canucks were sharing a team in Fredericton, New Brunswick with the Quebec Nordiques and Quinn says the marriage was a rocky one.
“It was a terrible, terrible experience both being with Quebec and the Nordiques as partners and sharing a team in general. I wanted to end that as quickly as possible and I did.
“They (the Express coaching staff under Andre Savard) played all the Quebec kids in New Brunswick and didn’t play our kids.
“(The Canucks) had Marc Crawford there and that’s where I turned him into a coach…he was a player at the time. I gave Marc instructions because they’d run their practices, game plans and everything else in French. We didn’t have one french guy on the team except for Crawford, who is bilingual. So he’d explain things to our guys.”
After placing their prospects in the now-defunct IHL for a couple of seasons, Quinn felt the Canucks prospects were better served playing in the AHL and he set up shop in Hamilton and eventually Syracuse. Of course, later as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Quinn’s prospects were developed in St. John’s.
Quinn says a successful AHL team has to balance developing prospects with winning and providing entertainment for the fans.
“You also want a product that the local people can take pride in. So clearly you want that team to be good. So you make sure that you hire a good coach, not ones that are just solely motivated on getting to the National league themselves, but are big on developing kids. If they do that, they’ll get to the National league anyway.
“We always looked for someone that cared about the kids and the community. So we also took steps to ensure we were involved in the community. We wanted to have a team that the fans liked and were proud of.”
Quinn also says a successful AHL team starts at the top and the St. John’s IceCaps are well served in that capacity with Governor and Chief Operating Officer Glenn Stanford.
“What I think is important in team-building is leadership…that has a lot to do with it and that’s what you have in Stanford. He’s a leader. I’ve (followed) him not only here, but in Hamilton and other places that he went after the (St. John’s) Maple Leafs left Newfoundland.
“When it was announced the AHL was coming back I think all of us were pretty happy that had any association with the group that was here before (with the St. John’s Maple Leafs). And with the financial backing of (President and CEO) Danny (Williams) it was a nice feeling.
“This is a franchise that I think they can make work and under Glenn’s leadership it will.”