Pat Quinn was born on January 29, 1943. Prior to moving into successful careers in coaching and management, he enjoyed a nine-season playing career as a defenceman, beginning with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968-69, continuing with the Vancouver Canucks in 1970-71 and concluding with five seasons as a member of the Atlanta Flames.
In 1977, 'The Big Irishman' joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant coach under Fred Shero. By 1978-79, Quinn had stepped behind the bench for Philadelphia's American Hockey League affiliate, the Maine Mariners, but later in that season, was promoted to head coach of the parent Flyers. During 1979-80, he led the team to an unprecedented 35-game unbeaten streak, and Philadelphia proceeded to the Stanley Cup Final, although they lost to the Islanders in six games. He was awarded the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach for his efforts that season. Nearing the end of the 1981-82 season, Quinn was released by the Flyers.
After earning his law degree, Pat Quinn was hired to coach the Los Angeles Kings in 1984-85 and with a 23-point improvement, returned the club to the playoffs for the first time in two seasons.
In December 1986, believing he'd uncovered a loophole in his contract that allowed him to negotiate with other teams, Quinn accepted an offer from the Vancouver Canucks that would see him become that team's president and general manager. But NHL President John Ziegler disagreed, and Quinn was suspended for the remainder of the 1986-87 season, unable to join the Canucks in any capacity until the conclusion of that season, and prohibited from coaching anywhere until 1988-89. So, Quinn joined Vancouver as the president and general manager in 1987-88.
With his coaching ban lifted, Quinn assumed the Canucks' head coaching position for the final 26 games of the 1990-91 season. In the next season, he won his second Jack Adams Award after leading Vancouver to a first-place finish in the Smythe Division. They repeated that feat in 1992-93, and then in 1993-94, went to the Stanley Cup Final, ultimately to lose to the New York Rangers in an exciting seven-game series. Starting with the 1994-95 campaign, Quinn decided to focus on his senior management roles and decided to give up his coaching position. In November 1997, he was let go by the Canucks.
Before the start of the next season (1998-99), Quinn was hired as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team improved considerably, and that spring, making it all the way to the Conference Final against the Buffalo Sabres. That summer, Quinn also assumed the general manager position with the Maple Leafs. Toronto reached the Conference Final again in 2001-02, this time falling to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Leafs hired John Ferguson Jr. during the summer of 2003, replacing Quinn in the GM's chair, although he continued on as coach. Following the season-long lockout of 2004-05, the Leafs missed the playoffs in 2005-06 for the first time since Quinn had been their coach. As a result, he was fired in April 2006, despite having recorded three 100-point seasons.
Quinn did not return to the NHL's coaching ranks until 2009-10 when he was contracted by the Edmonton Oilers. He lasted but one season behind the Edmonton bench, finishing last in his only season, but was retained by the Oilers in an advisory capacity for the following season.
In 1,400 regular season games as a head coach, Quinn earned a record of 684 wins, 528 losses, 154 ties and 34 overtime losses. He also guided his teams to 94 wins and 89 losses in playoff action.
Pat Quinn also enjoyed great success at the international level. He coached Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Two years later, he was behind the bench as Team Canada took gold at the 2004 World Cup. He again coached Team Canada at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006, but were unsuccessful in attaining medal status. Quinn coached Canada at the 2006 Spengler Cup, and lost by a goal in the final. In 2008, he coached Team Canada to the gold medal at the IIHF World U-18 Championships. He then led Canada to gold at the 2009 World Junior Championships in Ottawa.
Quinn served as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Selection Committee from 1998 until 2013. On August 1, 2013, he assumed the role of Chairman of the Board of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and remained in that capacity until his passing on November 23, 2014.