Pat Quinn named new head coach of Canadian world junior team

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

OTTAWA - Pat Quinn is looking forward to coaching at Scotiabank Place and not being public enemy No. 1 for a change.

The former Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss was often the villain in Ottawa for his role in the Battle of Ontario against the Senators, but he’ll be on the side of the good guys when Canada opens its world junior championship on Boxing Day against the Czech Republic.

“Well, if we don’t do well with the team, I might be public enemy No. 1,” Quinn joked Thursday after he was introduced at a news conference as the new head coach of the national junior team by Hockey Canada.

“But this has been a great place to play. Part of the excitement of being a coach in Toronto was coming into this building, it’s such a great atmosphere for hockey and that’s what competition’s all about - arousing passion and you sure have a lot of it here.

“So this is going to be a lot of fun for us and for the kids.”

The 65-year-old succeeds Benoit Groulx, the former coach of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques who quit last month in order to take over as coach of the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

In addition to the hiring of Quinn, Hockey Canada also announced that Guy Boucher of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs would join Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League) and Dave Cameron (Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League) as assistant coaches.

Quinn, a native of Hamilton, is essentially the third man for the job of head coach this year. Groulx accepted the juniors job after last year’s coach, Craig Hartsburg, was hired at the NHL level by the Senators earlier this summer.

“It was a situation we haven’t faced very often with the national junior team,” said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who admitted that Groulx’s about-face caught him off-guard. “The one thing in our country is we’ve got a lot of depth.

“We’re very confident with who we put in charge of this,” he added. “I feel very confident with Pat’s leadership and the support of three coaches now, one from each league, will put us in real good shape.”

Quinn was more than happy to take the role, calling it ‘a privilege.’ He’s enjoyed success previously with Canada at the international level.

He was coach of the men’s team that won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and also was behind the bench when Canada won the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Most recently, with Boucher as an assistant, he led Canada to the gold in the spring at the under-18 world championship, a victory that played a big part in Hockey Canada’s decision, Nicholson said.

“I watched very closely when the team won at the under-18 world championship and you always get the players going up to the coaches and congratulating them, but you could just see the emotion from the players to the coach there,” he said.

“I thought he was great,” added defenceman Tyler Cuma of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, who played for Quinn at the under-18 event and was one of the players invited to the national junior team’s development camp in July.

“Growing up in Toronto when he was the Leafs’ coach, I always saw him on the bench yelling at guys and at the refs, stuff like that. He seemed like a hard guy, but when I played for him overseas, he wasn’t like that at all,” the native of Bowmanville, Ont., said.

“He was really soft-spoken and really kind-hearted and he really wanted to get to know the players a lot. I think that was the biggest thing for us players, that respect level and to get comfortable with him and the systems we had.”

Quinn was viewed as a surprise choice to lead the under-18 team given his reputation for being a veteran coach with little time for teaching, but that’s a description that he takes exception to. “I thought I was a teaching coach,” he said. “When those things come up, it frustrates you because it’s just not an accurate picture of who I am. I just read the other day that I’m not an Xs and Os guy. I’m one of the guys who started the Xs and Os for crying out loud.”

Quinn hasn’t coached regularly since leaving the Leafs following the 2005-06 season, and without his own junior team to worry about in the coming months, he’ll be able to devote his full attention to the program.

He’s missed out on the team’s summer development camp, but is already familiar with many of the players who figure to be invited to the final selection camp in December.

“I had a great opportunity to meet a number of the boys, and most of them have a good chance to be on this team, during the under-18 last year,” he said. “It sounds like a number of our guys are expected maybe not to come back from their NHL teams, so we’ll be looking at younger guys for this edition and that’s OK with me because I know they’ve got skill.

“We should be solid on defence and our goaltending should be good. Our forwards could be questionable depending on how many come back.”

Groulx said he was on the lookout for two-way players and, similarly, Quinn said character guys are at the top of his list.

“If you ask any coach, I think they’d start with character,” he said. “To me, that’s one of the key ingredients. It’s not just about your skill level. You have to have the type of interest in the game, the passion in the game, to make a commitment to your teammates.

“I’d love to play a skill game, but we’ll play whatever game we have to play to win.”


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