Regardless of the outcome of the National Hockey League’s investigation, the Vancouver Canucks apparently still want Pat Quinn to run their hockey club.
Quinn was coach of the Kings until last Friday, when it was learned that he had signed a future contract with Vancouver. He was expelled from the NHL, pending an investigation into his being under contract to two teams at once.
Arthur Griffiths, assistant to (and son of) Chairman Frank Griffiths, the team’s majority owner, said Wednesday that the Canucks are looking forward to Quinn’s joining the team as its president and general manager June 1.
Jerry Buss, owner of the Kings, refused to comment when asked whether he still wanted Quinn to coach his team, due to the ongoing investigation. Buss did say, however: “I think he (Quinn) is the most knowledgeable hockey person I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Before this situation, I would not have hesitated to hire Pat in any capacity. We all love him. He’s top drawer. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ve received a major blow.”
Quinn, in the third year of a three-year contract with the Kings, signed the contract with the Canucks Dec. 24.
Also on Wednesday, Gilbert Stein, who was appointed by NHL President John Ziegler to conduct the investigation, concluded his interviews here and met with the media briefly. He said he was leaving Los Angeles today and was “going east.”
Stein would not say how far the investigation had progressed or what would happen next. He would say only that the investigation was not finished.
“My responsibility in the matter is limited to ascertaining certain facts and reporting them back to Mr. Ziegler,” Stein said.
Stein had also been in Vancouver Tuesday but would not say with whom he met there. Griffiths, however, said that he had met with Stein briefly. “It was just an explanation of the facts and a couple of questions,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths also said the publicity surrounding the investigation had not dampened the Canucks’ enthusiasm over having Quinn in their organization.
“Do we still want him? Absolutely,” Griffiths said. “Pat Quinn is going to help this team. We were attracted by his dedication to the game as well as his ability to pursue and get the things he’s wanted, as evidenced by his attending law school while he is coaching. He’s meticulous, he’s emotional.”
Griffiths said that after an initial negative reaction in Vancouver, the climate in the city now favors the Canucks’ actions.
“There has been some backpedaling,” he said. “It began negative as far as reporting of the facts. That’s understandable because we weren’t in a position to comment on the facts.
“Now it’s been completely positive. It’s a matter what’s foremost in people’s minds, whether they like hockey or not. We have the confidence that our team is the No. 1 team in town.”
The Canucks, of course, are the only team in town of major league caliber.
Their traditionally poor record and the public perception of the franchise as one whose fortunes were doomed to slide further, combined to drive season ticket sales from 7,100 last season to 5,700.
Griffiths said, however, that memories still linger from Quinn’s days as a bruising defenseman with the Canucks. He was known then as the Mighty Quinn.
“He was a popular player with the fans,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said Quinn’s responsibilities with the team would be wide ranging, if Quinn’s contract is allowed to stand.
“He’ll be responsible for all hockey operations, accounting, marketing and finance,” Griffiths said. “In fact, he’ll report to me.”
That will mean Quinn, the president of the team, will be reporting to a vice president. "(But) he’ll have three vice presidents reporting to him,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths said Quinn will have complete responsibility for the hiring and firing of personnel.
He said Jack Gordon, the current general manager who also has the title of manager of hockey operations, would assist Quinn.
Griffiths also said the Canucks’ current coach, Tom Watt, who is under contract with Vancouver through June 1, 1988, has a cordial relationship with Quinn.
So does Stein, who said his friendship with Quinn dates back to when they sat across from one another at a negotiating table, Griffiths representing the NHL and Quinn the NHL Players Assn.
In fact, it was Stein who recommended Quinn for his first coaching job, with the Philadelphia Flyers.
‘We’ve been friends for a number of years,” Stein said Wednesday. “I recommended to Keith Allen, but Pat got the job on his own merit.”
Asked whether he thought Quinn would make a good general manager, Stein said: “I don’t know what it takes to be a general manager. I think I know a good meal when I taste one, but I don’t know how to cook.”
Stein would not comment about the direction of the investigation. Asked if there was a precedent that Ziegler was following in conducting it, Stein replied that all NHL bylaws and procedures are confidential and made known only when that course was in the best interest of the league.
Quinn’s attorney, Morris Chucas, said last week that Stein had told him that if there were no discrepancy in the facts of the case, Ziegler would make the decision. If the principals disagreed as to the facts, Chucas said, a hearing would be called.
Stein would neither confirm nor deny that. He also would not say what the possible consequences would be for any of the parties involved, nor would he speculate on whether the league would change its rules and require the filing of coaches’ contracts. The double signing might have been prevented if the NHL required teams to file all contracts with the league office.