As a sports fan during my formative years (read: I had begun drinking), my favourite sports team was pretty good. I’m from Toronto, so while these “pretty good to very good” teams during this period never won the big prize, it was great to watch them. I loved seeing my team eliminate rivals and move on to make new ones. I loved seeing my favourite players play playoff games. I loved hoping to see them play just a few more.
The memories of the Toronto Maple Leafs during this period is what molded and strengthened my affinity for them. No amount of tossed jerseys or David Clarksons on the ice will probably ever change that. Without this period, maybe I would have followed another team. Maybe I would have just stopped watching the sport. Pat Quinn was driving the bus then; so that wasn’t the case.
With all due respect to the also-late Pat Burns (for fuck sakes), my fondest Leafs memories happened on Pat Quinn’s watch. I went to Leafs/Habs games in a Leafs jersey at the Bell Centre when he was behind the bench. Eliminating the Senators four times in five years happened. So did “Ping!”
I never met the man. I vividly remember seeing his large Irish head outside a Remembrance Day observance at St. James Cathedral, as I was walking by one day. I thought to myself, “hey, is that him?” I’m far too Canadian to have walked up to say ‘hello’, and considering all I’ve read today about the man inside and outside of hockey, I wish I hadn’t been.
Pat Quinn meant a lot to me. I hate that it took him dying for me to realize how much that was the case.