Pat Quinn didn't want to weigh in on the National Hockey League lockout, but he couldn't help himself.
Having been in the game for six decades as a fan, player, coach, general manager and club president, Quinn can't comprehend a lost season or the thought of a labour war eating into next year as well. He wants a deal, pronto, but not one built on expediency.
"You need an agreement in which both sides are willing to work together (long term)," the Maple Leafs coach said yesterday at the John Innes Community Centre on Sherbourne St., where he helped children launch Bell Canada's $1-million community sports fund. "What bothers me is the minute we made the deal (to end the 1994-95 lockout), the players hired lawyers to find out how to beat the deal they'd just made. That to me was the most disappointing part. We can't have that same thing going forward again."
But Quinn says he can understand the players' perspective, having been on the ice for 600 games himself and gaining a reputation as a players' coach.
"I was a player rep in the very first collective bargaining agreement we had with the owners. I understand the issues. In my day, we didn't have very much money, but there were other issues that were important to us.
"But we're looking at the entire game now and, having been in the management side, I understand the problems from the economic standpoint from top to bottom. Obviously, some teams do well, but that's not our league (as a whole). So we need to find a way to pull this together.
"To (miss) a year ... I don't know what the consequences are, but I don't like thinking about it."
He doesn't believe changing the lineup of negotiators on both sides at this stage of bargaining would help.
"Only the guys who have been there all the way through should be there now," he said. "That's how a deal gets done. Bringing in new parties or having suggestions from left or right field does not help the process at all. Both the players and owners have kept this very close to their vest."
Quinn would not debate what minimum number of games would constitute a "real" season should talks yesterday in Toronto lead to a deal. Most observers have estimated only 28 to 36 games could be accommodated at this late date.
"I'm not in a position to decide what's legitimate," he said. "That's for our ownership. I still think there is time to pull this off, but time is going away on us. Whatever we get (in games), I'll be ready. I just want to see us get back to work and we'll make the best of what we can."
Bell and the True Sport Foundation are making the $1-million investment to grassroots hockey and soccer. The money will go to reducing registration costs, equipment sharing, hiring coaches and improving facilities.