In St. John’s to speak to the Board of Trade, he recalls the night he knocked out Bobby Orr
With his own image projected onto a video screen in the background, former NHL coach and general manager Pat Quinn speaks to the St. John’s Board of Trade at the St. John’s Convention Centre Wednesday afternoon. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The Bruins will be looking to etch another where-were-you moment into the Beantown sports history book against the Chicago Blackhawks, but regardless what happens in the 2013 Stanley Cup final that opened Wednesday night, nothing will replace the iconic Boston moment when Bobby Orr sailed through the Gardens air after scoring against St. Louis Blues goalie Glenn Hall to clinch a Bruins’ Stanley Cup win 43 years ago.
Of course, Orr has his own chapter in Bruins folklore, including another highlight-reel point in time that Boston fans perhaps choose to forget.
And the centerpiece of that event was in St. John’s Wednesday, addressing the St. John’s Board of Trade.
Pat Quinn coached in the NHL 20 years. He was a general manager and even served as president of the Vancouver Canucks.
He was behind the bench when Canada won the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, won a World Cup and a world juniors, to boot.
He was tough-as-nails defenceman as a player, and today co-owns a junior team, the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
But mention Pat Quinn and chances are hockey fans will recall the night of April 2, 1969 when Quinn, then of the Toronto Maple Leafs, laid out Orr a cold junk on Boston Garden ice.
Quinn was a rookie Leaf, even though Orr was four years younger than his defence counterpart. Unlike Orr, Quinn wasn’t good enough jump from junior to the NHL, apprenticing instead for a few years in the minors.
“He’s arguably the best player (ever),” Quinn said Wednesday at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland.
“Everyone backed away from Orr. When they saw him wind up with the puck, they backed away because he was a bullet … he could skate better than anyone in the game at the time.
“They had a hot dog team ... the Big Bad Bruins, but there was only stick guy on their team and the rest were gang guys who’d jump on top of you.
“The Leafs got tough. They brought me in, Jim Dorey, Forbes Kennedy — a tough, tough guy.”
During a regular season game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Orr dashed up the ice, threw the puck at the net, which Bruce Gamble stopped and gloved.
Orr, according to Quinn, swooped in and gave the Toronto netminder a spray of snow before slashing Gamble on the hand.
“I was just arriving on the scene,” Quinn said, “having probably been beaten up ice. So I cross-checked Orr and knocked him on his butt.
“As he was laying there, the brigade started coming in. In the meantime, Orr kicks me in the stomach so I kicked him in the ass. Everybody jumps in and we got into it.
“So we had a history.”
That spring, in the 1969 playoffs, the Leafs and Bruins were pegged to meet in the quarter-finals, with the series starting in Boston.
Naturally, Toronto’s game plan was to figure out a way to stop Orr, a task few, if any, teams managed to accomplish.
Late in the second period, and the Bruins winning easily 6-0, Orr picked up the puck behind his own net for a sprint up ice.
As he neared the faceoff circle, fleet Leafs forward Brit Selby was angling the Boston defenceman towards the boards.
“Orr was really steaming, but I could see he didn’t have his head up, watching where Brit was instead of watching what was in front of him,” Quinn recalls.
“I started to back out of the zone, and then I thought, ‘No, I think I can get him.’
“He came up my side and I landed what was a clean body check, although today I’d get suspended for life. (Don) Cherry says there was an elbow, but it was a follow-through because I can still feel his jaw right here,” Quinn said to great laughter as he indicated his shoulder.
The ref disagreed, and Quinn was assessed a five-minute major for elbowing.
The Garden was silent as the Bruins carried an unconscious Orr off on a piece of plywood (“the owners were so cheap in Boston”).
And then the place went nuts.
“So I’m in the penalty box — and those are the days when there’s only one box — and in that penalty box is a big Boston cop. I’m sitting there and somebody hits me with something from behind. The glass was fairly low and now people are surging down trying to get at me … I swear they keep the Boston fans in dungeons under the rink. They let up for games and soon as they’re over, they go right back down.
“I’m trying to defend myself by standing on the bench and I’m waving my stick at the fans. My stick hits the glass and the Boston cop is trying to get me in a headlock. Then the glass breaks and cuts the cop. Now I’ve got 15,000 people pissed, and a Boston cop who is pissed.
“So I scrambled out on the ice quick as I could.”
As Quinn tries to get to the Leafs’ dressing room, debris is raining down on the Leafs.
“One guy even threw one of those change things bus drivers had on their belts.
“We needed a police escort to get out of there.”
The next night, following Game 2, the Leafs were waiting aboard the bus taking them to Logan Airport. While coach Punch Imlach never put beer on the bus for his players, he’d always turn a blind eye if a few suds were carried on.
The was a bar close to the Garden, place called Jack Sharkey’s after the famous Boston boxer, and the Leafs sent a few young players on a beer run.
Quinn, a rookie, was one of the chosen few.
“I walk into this place and it’s jammed,” he recalls. “I got about four or five deep getting to the bar, and some guy yells, “There’s Quinn!” Bad place to be.
“Well, it must have been an Irish Catholic bar because they bought the beer for me and sent me out.”
As for Orr, he was none the worse for wear, returning for the remainder of the playoffs. He would help the Bruins win two of the next three Stanley Cups.
Pat Quinn’ went on to play over 600 NHL games with the Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Flames. His career came to end in 1977 when he slipped on his daughter’s skateboard and suffered a severe ankle injury.
After his playing career finished, Quinn attended law school and went on to become one of the game’s all-time great coaches, working behind the benches of the Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Canucks, Leafs and Edmonton Oilers He was also the general manager of the Canucks and Leafs.