The Globe and Mail

Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Press release from CNW Group

Pat Quinn reflects on his life in the game of hockey

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pat Quinn reflects on his life in the game of hockey12:27 EST Thursday, December 22, 2011Canadian sports icon looks back with Imperial Oil at how Canada's winter sport  influenced his life and career "For 75 years, Imperial has been in the corners with us"Essay shared with Canadians over the holiday seasonCALGARY, Dec. 22, 2011 /CNW/ - The names Imperial Oil and Esso have been synonymous with hockey in Canada for 75 years.It was in December 1936 that Imperial Oil, under the brand name Esso, first sponsored Foster Hewitt's hockey broadcasts on radio. The company has been linked to Canada's winter sport ever since.In honour of this special anniversary, Imperial Oil commissioned legendary Canadian hockey figure Pat Quinn to write an essay about his hockey past and the sport he loves. The longtime NHL player, NHL coach and also Hockey Canada coach penned the attached article, in which he discusses the impressions and influences that hockey had on him, his family and community while growing up in Hamilton, Ont. Imperial and Pat Quinn invite media across Canada to share this essay with their readers over the 2011-2012 holiday season."Imperial Oil and the Esso brand are intrinsically linked with hockey in Canada.  We're proud to have been part of Canada's game for 75 years," said Bruce March, Imperial Oil chairman, president and chief executive officer.  "We are honoured that Pat Quinn is participating in our celebration in this manner and we hope all Canadians will appreciate reading Pat's essay over the holidays."Imperial's link to the game began in the 1930s and '40s through sponsorship of Hewitt's cross-Canada radio broadcasts, a period that saw the introduction after every game of the "Three Star Selection," which was inspired by Esso's 3 Star Gasoline. Esso was the sponsor in 1940 of overseas transmission of hockey games for Canadian service personnel stationed in Europe and elsewhere during the Second World War.Imperial expanded its sponsorship and made the leap to television in 1952. The 1970s saw Imperial begin to develop grassroots programs and in 1981 it first introduced the Esso Medals of Achievement program,  which has now seen nearly two million medals of achievement and more than 30 million certificates of participation awarded to young boys and girls. Imperial today continues to be linked to hockey at all levels in Canada, from the grassroots to the pros.The attached essay and associated information is meant to be shared with Canadians over the 2011-2012 holiday season. The material is being distributed to Canadian media outlets for their potential use. Pat Quinn's essay is also available at www.imperialoil.caImperial Oil and Pat Quinn hope you enjoy reading it.Imperial Oil is one of Canada's largest corporations and a leading member of the country's petroleum industry. It is one of the country's largest producers of crude oil and natural gas, is the largest petroleum refiner, and has a leading market share in petroleum products sold through a coast-to-coast supply network of about 1,850 Esso service stations.By Pat Quinn for Imperial OilImperial Oil is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its relationship with the game of hockey in Canada.  As I look back, I realize I've been involved with the sport for almost all of those years, too.I was born in 1943, in Hamilton, Ont. I played several sports but the first was hockey, which I played as a three year old wearing double-runner skates tied to my boots. Like many young Canadian kids today, we played on a rink that my father made in the yard. At age five, I recall graduating to the better backyard rink that a neighbour built. I was allowed to stay until the streetlights came on, improving with my new (at least to me) hand-me-down skates, which I wore with four pairs of socks to help fill the boots.In addition to honing my hockey skills, I was becoming a hockey fan. For Christmas in 1953, I received a crystal radio receiver set. Being the oldest of four children, I could occasionally stay up late on Saturday nights to listen to Foster Hewitt on Hockey Night in Canada. On the Saturdays I had to go to bed, my mom would let me sneak the set up with me, as long as I didn't bother my brothers or sister. There in the dark, listening to Foster's words, I could see the lunch bucket Leafs and Les Glorieux, the Flying Frenchmen. Maurice (The Rocket) Richard was a blazing ball of fire. I could see my favourite, Leafs captain Ted (Teeder) Kennedy, in my mind's eye as Foster told how Teeder scored the eventual winner right off the face-off.Hewitt's broadcasts were from the wooden box high up at Maple Leaf Gardens. We all came to know it as the 'Gondola.' Little did I know that one day I'd have a view of Foster's perch from ice level and later from my own post behind the home team's bench.Radio continued to stoke my interest in the game. I didn't have to worry too much when the NHL − and Imperial Oil along with it − made the leap to the new medium of television in 1952. No one in our neighbourhood had a TV. Most of my spare moments were spent at Mahoney Park, two blocks from my house. In Hamilton, you had to be 12 years old to play organized hockey. But at Mahoney Park, you could get a pickup game going every day after school and all day Saturday and Sunday.One wintery Saturday in January of 1954, as I was thawing out my feet from a morning skate, my mother casually mentioned that the fire station where my dad worked just got a television. I couldn't believe the words she said next: "Would you like to go to the fire hall and watch the Leafs against Montreal tonight?" My heart started pounding in my chest.That night I was introduced to the miracle of television. I sat with my dad and the other firemen, our eyes glued to the grainy picture. The TV antenna - or rabbit ears − had to be constantly moved to get a good picture. It was unforgettable. At long last I actually got to watch the heroes I'd been envisioning in my head while listening to Foster on the radio. I also saw Esso pitchman Murray Westgate introducing the Hot Stove Lounge and sending the show up to the Gondola for the announcement of the Esso Three Stars, who were picked by Hewitt.Esso's place in the telecast always hit home with me because I occasionally pumped gas for Mr. Elliott, the owner of our local corner Esso station.As a 15 year old, I played junior for the Hamilton Jr. A Tiger Cubs alongside Paul Henderson and Pit Martin. Later, I pounded around in the minor pro leagues south of the border. In 1968, having been acquired by the Leafs, I got called up to the NHL. My first game was in Pittsburgh. The next, at home in Toronto, was scheduled as part of the Hockey Night in Canada telecast.  During the morning skate, I watched George Armstrong, the captain, wearing his shirt, tie and skates step on the ice at one end of the Leaf bench and skate to the door at the other end to leave. That was his morning ritual. I tried to nap that afternoon. No luck, so I went to the Gardens early. As the first player in the dressing room, I sat at my new stall, looked up and read for the 10th time that day the famous Conn Smyth Challenge: "If you can't beat them in the alley, you can't beat them on the ice." Of course, I knew the words from the Hot Stove Lounge all those years before - and they still seem like scripture. I thought to myself I'll do pretty well here because "The Alley" just might be the best part of my game.Two years later I found myself on the roster of the Vancouver Canucks, an expansion team. The game was in transition. On Hockey Night in Canada, Foster still did the Esso Three Star selection but his son Bill was doing the play-by-play.Esso's relationship with hockey was also changing. Its long-time sponsorship of Hockey Night in Canada ended in 1976, when it began developing grassroots programs for kids, which continue today.My role in hockey has also evolved. I went from playing to coaching in the NHL and eventually becoming involved with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (a.k.a. Hockey Canada) as a coach in 1986, when NHL pros represented Canada at the World Championship in Moscow, winning a bronze. I'd later coach Canada's National Junior Men's squad to a World Championship in 2009.As a young fan, player, coach and now as a father and grandfather, I can say I've seen first-hand how hockey grew to the point that it truly connects Canadians from coast to coast. And for 75 years, through its unbridled support of the game, Imperial Oil has been in the corners with us.Quick Facts: Imperial Oil's 75-year association with hockey in CanadaImperial Oil, under the brand name Esso, began sponsorship of Foster Hewitt's national radio broadcasts of NHL games in December 1936.The "Three Star Selection," introduced in 1936, was inspired by Esso's 3 Star Gasoline.Many Canadians will remember Murray Westgate and Philippe Robert, Esso's uniformed spokesmen for English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians, respectively. The pair were first introduced in 1952.A group of Imperial Oil employees known as the Esso Choristers had a decade-long tradition that began in 1958 of singing for millions of Canadians on Hockey Night in Canada at Christmas.Imperial Oil introduced Esso Medals of Achievement in 1981. The medals are awarded for the most sportsmanlike, most dedicated and most improved players to every minor boys and girls team playing minor hockey. Nearly two million medals of achievement and more than 30 million certificates of participation have been awarded to young boys and girls.Esso is a founding sponsor of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. In 1998, Imperial launched the Esso Wall of Champions at the Hall of Fame, which annually inducts former Esso Medals of Achievement recipients who have gone on to hockey greatness. Among names on the Esso Wall of Champions are Haley Wickenheiser, Martin Brodeur, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Smith, Jayna Hefford and Geraldine Heaney.Since 1998, the Esso Fun Days program has introduced thousands of girls and women to hockey. The unique female hockey program introduces the basic fundamental skills and rules of the game to first-time female participants of all ages for no cost.Esso Minor Hockey Week each year in Calgary is a week-long tournament that over the years has become one of the largest of its kind, attracting more than 600 teams and 10,000 players ranging in age from seven to 21.Esso/Pat Quinn hockey quizQ. Who were Imperial Oil's two original pitchmen on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts beginning in 1952?Q. Where is the 2012 Esso Cup - Canada's national women's midget hockey championship?About how many teams annually enter the Esso Minor hockey Week tournament in Calgary?Which NHL teams did Pat Quinn play for?What year did Pat Quinn coach Canada's national junior men's team to a world junior hockey championship?Answers:Murray Westgate and Philippe Robert.Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.600Toronto Maple Leafs; Vancouver Canucks; Atlanta Flames2009Image with caption: "Pat Quinn coached Canada's national junior men's team at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa. (CNW Group/Imperial Oil Limited)". Image available at: further information: Jon Harding Imperial Oil, Public Affairs (403) 237-2710