Hamilton's Pat Quinn has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to hockey as a player, coach and manager.
“Whenever I'd hear the Order of Canada as a youngster I'd think 'they're someone's hero,'” Quinn told CBC Hamilton in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
“This is one of those quiet little serious moments, for me to be someone's hero.”
Quinn made stops in Toronto, Vancouver and Atlanta as an NHL player, and coached teams in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton.
He was also the coach of the 2002 gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic men's hockey team.
Quinn said winning that medal was one of the most powerful moments of patriotic pride he's ever felt.
“When we stood there, every last one of us when they were playing the anthem … we were thumping our chests that day. Or maybe something inside of our chests was thumping."
“At the end of the day, it was an incredible feeling to see those men stand there watching their flag go up,” Quinn said. “Nothing could replicate that.”
Quinn downplayed his contributions to Canadian society, preferring to pump up the way his father, uncles and grandfather fought in the First and Second World War.
His great great grandfather fought in the War of 1812, and was granted some land in Burlington. The house he built there still exists, as the Ireland heritage house.
“Because of the ways my family contributed to this country, this is pretty humbling for me,” Quinn said.
“I'm a guy getting recognized for something I love doing anyway.”
“They risked their lives, I just went on the ice.”
Quinn said for many years, he took just what his family had done for Canada for granted.
“Then I played hockey in the States and coached down there and was able to see a nationalistic sort of chest-thumping that didn't happen in our country,” he said. “And I always wondered 'well why not?'”
“I feel that sense of pride, the contribution of our forefathers, the commitments they made to our freedom and what we have today.
“So should I be thumping my chest? I always believed I should be.”
Quinn is one of 25 people who were named Officers of the Order of Canada on Friday, including journalists Craig Oliver and Chantal Hébert and former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
The winners will be honoured at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, the Governor General's residence in Ottawa.