Trevor Linden had been trying to see Pat Quinn for weeks. The former Canucks coach had been fighting a lengthy illness – Linden remembered how difficult it had been for Quinn to prepare for his induction into the team's ring of honour.
But Linden's requests for a visit were consistently rebuffed. Quinn was proud, Linden said, and didn't want anyone to see the condition he was in.
Finally, last Friday, Linden and Kirk McLean – his teammate on the 1994 Canucks squad that went to the Stanley Cup final under Quinn – decided they would just head to Vancouver General Hospital.
Linden was glad they did.
"He didn't look well but he still had that stubborn Irishness about him. He still had that Pat Quinn ire. We had a nice visit and I was really thankful to have that opportunity," he told reporters Monday.
Quinn, who served with the team as a player, coach, and general manager and brought legitimacy to an organization that badly needed it, died in hospital Sunday night. He was 71.
Quinn, who drafted local legends Linden and Pavel Bure, and acquired Markus Naslund, was inducted into the team's ring of honour in April. He received a standing ovation.
Linden and McLean were joined at Monday's news conference by Stan Smyl, who also played under Quinn, and Orland Kurtenbach, who skated alongside him.
Linden, now the team's president, said he wouldn't be the person he is today without Quinn. He described Quinn as a "great man" who taught him how to be a professional on and off the ice.
Linden said Quinn, despite his sometimes gruff exterior, cared immensely about his players. Those players could be afraid of Quinn, Linden said, but not because the coach was belittling or cruel.
"He just had such a presence, and he was an intimidating presence. When he walked in the room, everything stopped," he said.
Smyl said Quinn, who took over as general manager in 1987, changed what it meant to be a Canuck.
"Pat Quinn was the gentleman that changed this organization around. We never got the respect from back east that we should have until Pat came in. … He took no crap from the people back east," he said.
McLean credited Quinn and other members of the organization for taking a chance on him when he was just a "punk kid."
Friday's hospital visit was difficult, he said. Quinn shared stories, but was obviously not well, McLean said.
"It was tough to see him in that situation. … You never expect anything like this to happen. You can maybe see it or you try to prepare for it. I woke up this morning and got the news via email. … I was obviously quite taken aback and shocked and very sad," he said.
Francesco Aquilini, the team's current owner, met with reporters shortly after the news conference and said Quinn was a man who commanded respect.
The team is still trying to determine how it will further honour Quinn. The Canucks play New Jersey on Tuesday.
Henrik Sedin, the current captain, said he met Quinn at a few times, at various events. He echoed the message that Quinn changed the way people view the Canucks franchise.
Kevin Bieksa, a defenceman who grew up in Grimsby, near Quinn's hometown of Hamilton, said it was a "sad day for the hockey world."
Bieksa said his father had been a fan of Quinn's and shared stories about him.
Quinn had in recent years become a co-owner of the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Ron Toigo, the team's majority owner, wrote in a statement that "Pat was an inspiration to all of us" who will be sorely missed.
"He always said that respect was something that should be earned, not given, and the respect that he garnered throughout the hockey world speaks for itself," the statement read.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark, in her statement, said Quinn was "a big man with a bigger heart whose legacy will live on for generations, in the hockey world and beyond."
Linden said Quinn's fingerprints remain on the organization. He said Quinn was a great teacher of the game and believed in a four-line attack, trusting that even enforcers such as Gino Odjick could play meaningful minutes. Linden said the current team, under coach Willie Desjardins, has taken a similar approach.