He masterminded the end of Canada's half-century long golden drought in Olympic hockey. Now Pat Quinn has "happily accepted" the opportunity to extend his country's tradition of excellence at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The veteran NHL bench boss was named today as the head coach of Hockey Canada's entry at the 2009 World Juniors, set to be played December 26 to January 5 at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre.
Quinn's appointment comes two weeks after Benoit Groulx unexpectedly stepped down from the position to take a head coaching job in the American Hockey League. But Hockey Canada is more than happy to move forward with Quinn, who guided Canada to a gold-medal triumph at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Russia in May.
He'll head up a staff that includes assistants Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat Tigers), Dave Cameron (Mississauga St. Michael's Majors) and Guy Boucher (Drummondville Voltigeurs).
“We went into Salt Lake City (for the 2002 Winter Olympics), we hadn’t won in 50 years and (Quinn) pulled through with the best players we had in our country," said Hockey Canada president/CEO Bob Nicholson. "But what I was so impressed with about Pat is what he did with the under-18 team. He went into that tournament not having all our best players because of lot of them were playing in the CHL playoffs and we won the gold there and won it in fashion, beating the Russians in the gold-medal game.”
With Canada currently on a run of four straight gold medals at the World Juniors, Quinn knows precisely what is expected of the latest edition of Canada’s National Junior Team. And he relishes the test to come.
“It’s a great challenge," said Quinn. "We’ve had some terrific teams (represent) us recently. There’s been four (champions) in the last four years and it’s a pretty hard act to follow. We’re not concerned about that. We know it’s there, it’s in place, it’s history. We’re concerned about the present, the now, and the young men we’ll have that are going to join us to bring (another) gold medal to Canada.
“Just to be asked and considered to do this is fulfilling for sure in a lot of ways. I’ll measure our success as we see how this team performs and how the young men do. Right now, it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be involved with our young people in Canada. I see that as a privilege and I’m going to cherish it. I’m going to do the best I can with it.”
Quinn's experience at the U18 tournament could prove invaluable, with perhaps as many as 10 potential Canadian players having a real shot at landing a spot on an NHL roster in the next few weeks.
“That’s going to be an advantage for us," said Nicholson. "Pat will know the players and he’ll help (head scout) Al Murray in the selection process because we have so many great players in the Canadian Hockey League.”
Scotiabank Place isn't exactly unfamiliar turf for Quinn, either. He brought a number of Toronto Maple Leafs teams into the buildings several years back, when the Battle of Ontario began to truly heat up. This time, though, Quinn figures to hear cheers, not jeers, from Ottawa fans.
"This has been a great place to play," said Quinn. "Part of the excitement of being a coach in Toronto was coming into this building. It’s such a great atmosphere for hockey and after all, that’s what competition is all about, arousing passion.
"You sure have it in this area here, so this is going to be a lot of fun for us and for the kids.”
With the coaching staff now in place, Quinn and Co. will spend the next few months evaluating players as they head into their junior hockey seasons. The final selection camp is set for early December in Ottawa.