The importance of being a family guy

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Some of his friends called him a nomad. Others referred to him as a gypsy.

Both schools of thought may have had a point when talking about Pat Quinn, head coach of the Maple Leafs.

The big Irishman from Hamilton has, indeed, moved around during his hockey career as a player, coach and general manager.

He played junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings and was on the Memorial Cup winning team that defeated the Niagara Falls Flyers in 1963. A month later, he married Sandra, his attractive wife of 43 years.

Sandra didn't know what she was letting herself in for, but Patrick's hockey odyssey had just begun. It took him from junior hockey in Edmonton to Knoxville, Tulsa and Memphis. Houston, Seattle and back to Tulsa. Finally, it was the NHL with the Maple Leafs, then the Vancouver Canucks and, finally, to the Atlanta (now Calgary) Flames. Even Homer would have had to find a new word for Quinn's travels.

So, I wanted to get a glimpse into Pat Quinn the family man and what his life outside of hockey is like.

Did your family follow him around from place to place during your career?

Quinn: "The family followed me right from Day 1, even when I was at school. I worked on my credits and wound up at York University in the end."

When your two children were younger, did they follow you around? And, if so, what impact did it have on their growing up?

Quinn: "We stayed together all the time. Sometimes I worried about it (moving them from place to place), but at least they had the opportunity to see different cultures and meet many people, some of whom they remained friends with to this day. My two daughters -- Valerie and Kalli -- are pretty outgoing and did well even with me being away a lot. I certainly didn't notice any negatives with that arrangement."

You have been in Toronto now for about seven years. Why then do you spend your off-time in Vancouver?

Quinn: "I don't really spend my off-time in Vancouver. That was media misinformation. My home is here in Toronto. We go to Vancouver on vacation for a total of, perhaps, five weeks. Most of the summer finds me here, playing in charity golf tournaments and other such activities."

Do you have many social friends outside of hockey?

Quinn: "Yes I do, even though I'm not a big socializer. Still, I've met many people through hockey and maintain our relationship away from hockey."

Have you and Sandra discussed what you would do if and when your retire?

Quinn: "We really haven't. One of the goals I reached because of the encouragement of my parents, was to finish my studies. So, if the opportunities in the game were no longer there, I could go back to law school and get my degree, which I did. As it turned out, I found a place in hockey. Actually, when my contract ended in Vancouver, I thought it was time to try something different.

"But, in 1997, I was given the opportunity to be with Team Canada as its general manager at the tournament in Finland. Fortunately, we won the gold medal and my hip, which I had replaced before the trip, has healed. Then the Leafs decided to make a coaching change (replacing Mike Murphy) and I got the job."

Are there any other sports-minded people in the Quinn clan?

Quinn: "Yes. I encourage my 10-year-old grandson to play hockey, baseball and football. His name is Quinn Rydland. Another grandchild, Kate, is 7 years old and playing in her first year of organized hockey, while 4-year-old Kylie skated for the first time at the Leafs' Christmas party last December."

If you had to do it all over, would you choose another profession?

Quinn: "I see myself very privileged. I didn't have it as my goal to be an NHL player because I was good at several sports. I was a catcher in baseball, played centre in soccer and, in high school, played football -- my best sport. But I'm very happy with the career I chose."

What advice would you give to other coaches, particularly regarding how the profession impacts on the family?

Quinn: "My advice would be to spend a lot of time with their families. The time goes by so fast, it's difficult to catch up and you can miss a lot. I hope young coaches will spend a lot of time with their families.

"It's a time they'll treasure. I know I did mine."


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