TORONTO (Nov. 23) — Even in the clutch of terminal illness, Pat Quinn struck a stately pose.
The portrait, below, was snapped on July 24, 2014 — four months before the Big Irishman succumbed to a liver ailment at 71 years of age. That would be one year ago today, in Vancouver. The photo, here, after accepting the Order of British Columbia, his adopted province, was the last public image of Quinn. The scourge of liver disease is evident in the weight he had lost, yet shrouded by his always–handsome smile; the gleam in his Irish eyes, and the patented, silvery coif. It is not the way I’d prefer to remember him — having spent the better part of a decade around the large, boisterous individual that coached and managed the Toronto Maple Leafs — yet others have looked many times worse in the shadow of death.
The fondest memories of my 23–year term as a reporter at The FAN–590 are derived from covering his Leaf clubs between 1998 and 2006. They were the best sustained years of hockey in this town since the 1967 Stanley Cup — featuring such players as Mats Sundin, Curtis Joseph, Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson, Tie Domi, Alexander Mogilny, Steve Thomas, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. The Leafs made the playoffs every year until Quinn’s final season of 2005–06. Twice — in 1999 and 2002 — Toronto played in the Eastern Conference final, losing to Buffalo and Carolina. As a testament to the Big Irishman (and a blight on those that have followed), the Maple Leafs have not appeared in the Stanley Cup tournament during a full, 82–game schedule since general manager John Ferguson Jr. fired Quinn in April 2006.
NOT THE CLEAREST PHOTO I’VE EVER SNAPPED, BUT THE LAST TIME, NONETHELESS, THAT I SAW PAT QUINN ALIVE. AT COMERICA PARK IN DETROIT ON DEC. 31, 2013, PRIOR TO A MAPLE LEAFS–RED WINGS OUTDOOR ALUMNI GAME THAT PRECEDED THE TORONTO–DETROIT BRIDGESTONE WINTER CLASSIC IN ANN ARBOR, MICH. WHEN I ASKED HOW HE WAS FEELING, PAT REPLIED: “I’M OKAY… FOR NOW.”
The bulk of my recollections from covering the Quinn Leafs were compiled in a blog one year ago this afternoon, upon learning of his death: http://bit.ly/1rlMTEF. Please have a look at it, when you can.
Time stops for no one.
Trust you’re resting easy, big Irishman.