Quinn to coach Canadian junior hockey team

Former NHL bench boss Pat Quinn is looking to add another gold medal to his international coaching resume after officially joining the Canadian national junior team Thursday.

Longtime NHL bench boss guided under-18 squad to gold in April

Former NHL bench boss Pat Quinn is looking to add another gold medal to his international coaching résumé.

Quinn will coach the Canadian national junior hockey team at the world championship in Ottawa this December after Benôit Groulx resigned two weeks ago to become head coach of the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans.

"It was a situation we haven't faced very often with the national junior team," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who admitted that Groulx's about-face caught him off-guard. "The one thing in our country is we've got a lot of depth.

"We're very confident with who we put in charge of this," he added. "I feel very confident with Pat's leadership and the support of three coaches now, one from each league, will put us in real good shape."

Quinn, 65, guided Canada to the IIHF under-18 championship in April and led a group of NHLers to a gold-medal victory at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

"I watched very closely when the team won at the under-18 world championship and you always get the players going up to the coaches and congratulating them, but you could just see the emotion from the players to the coach there," Nicholson said.

Quinn's success with the under-18 team was viewed by some as a surprise given his reputation as a head coach that prefers to work with veterans, but he takes exception to that label.

"I thought I was a teaching coach," he said. "When those things come up, it frustrates you because it's just not an accurate picture of who I am. I just read the other day that I'm not an 'Xs and Os' guy.

"I'm one of the guys who started the Xs and Os for crying out loud."

Quinn rounded out his staff with three Canadian Hockey League coaches including Guy Boucher (Drummondville, QMJHL), Dave Cameron (Mississauga, OHL) and Willie Desjardins (Medicine Hat, WHL).

He will attempt to lead Canada to a fifth consecutive world junior title following last year's thrilling 3-2 win over Sweden in the gold-medal at Pardubice, Czech Republic, under coach Craig Hartsburg. The Canadians open the tournament Dec. 26 against the Czechs.

Because of the timing of his hiring, Quinn missed out on the team's development camp this summer, but he maintained that he's already familiar with several of the players that should make the final selection camp in December.

"I had a great opportunity to meet a number of the boys, and most of them have a good chance to be on this team, during the under-18 last year," he said. "It sounds like a number of our guys are expected maybe not to come back from their NHL teams, so we'll be looking at younger guys for this edition and that's OK with me because I know they've got skill.

"We should be solid on defence and our goaltending should be good. Our forwards could be questionable depending on how many come back."

Quinn returns to Scotiabank Place 

Quinn won silver at the 2006 Spengler Cup, eight months after he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 20.

The Hamilton native left the Leafs with a year remaining on his contract and has since been rumoured at various points to be returning to an NHL bench.

Quinn led the 1980 Philadelphia Flyers and 1994 Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup final, and posted seven straight 90-point seasons in Toronto.

The Maple Leafs went 300-222-52 with 26 shootout and overtime losses under Quinn, who twice led the team to the Eastern Conference final, losing to Buffalo in 1999 and Carolina in 2002.

Quinn's 657 career victories trail only Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (781) and Dick Irvin (692).

The former Toronto head coach is looking forward to returning to Ottawa's Scotiabank Place, where he was often the villain for his role in the Battle of Ontario against the Senators.

"Well, if we don't do well with the team, I might be public enemy No. 1," Quinn joked Thursday after he was introduced at a news conference by Hockey Canada.

"But this has been a great place to play. Part of the excitement of being a coach in Toronto was coming into this building, it's such a great atmosphere for hockey and that's what competition's all about — arousing passion and you sure have a lot of it here.

"So this is going to be a lot of fun for us and for the kids."

Boosting the bench

Boucher shared the Canadian bench with Quinn at the world under-18 tourney this past spring, Boucher's third stint with the club.

He is entering his second season with the Quebec league's Voltigeurs after being an assistant with the Rimouski Oceanic (2002-06) and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1997-2000).

This will mark Cameron's first time with the Canadian national juniors. The longtime Ontario Hockey League coach guided the national men's summer under-18 outfit to gold at the 2004 Junior World Cup.

Desjardins is entering his sixth season as coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.

An assistant to Mike Johnston at the 1999 world hockey championship, Desjardins has two WHL titles to his name with Medicine Hat and was named 2006 CHL coach of the year.

With files from the Canadian Press