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Pat Quinn says pressure was just as great in 1994

As the Vancouver Canucks were putting the finishing touches on the San Jose Sharks to advance to the Stanley Cup final, Pat Quinn was at a reunion to mark the 17th anniversary of the Canucks' last trip to the NHL title round.

The group collectively decided to leave the golf course after the first overtime period Tuesday in hopes of getting back to the hotel in time to watch the conclusion. Instead, they were on the bus when Kevin Bieksa scored his miraculous goal for a 3-2 double-overtime victory - and thus had to wait for the endless TV replays to see how it finished.

Quinn, a career coach with 20 seasons and 684 victories on his NHL résumé, still lives in Vancouver and is an interested bystander this time around - watching all the hoopla unfold and quibbling with one bit of conventional wisdom that has entered the conversation. To wit: That the 1994 Canucks, who pushed the New York Rangers to seven games and came within a Nathan Lafayette hit crossbar of forcing overtime in the deciding game, were playing under limited pressure because of low expectations.

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False, Quinn says.

"It's interesting to listen to what they're saying around here, because I was there with the '94 team. Everybody says, 'Well, nobody expected anything.' Well, that's not true. We expected a lot," he said. "We had a good hockey team that year. We didn't have a championship season in terms of the regular season like we thought we'd have [41-40-3, second in the old Pacific Division] but we still expected to do well in the playoffs and perhaps win it. We thought we were in that position.

"So when I hear now, 'It's so much harder because there were expectations placed on this [2011]team,' well, I don't know …"

Quinn coached long enough - and came close enough to winning the Stanley Cup enough times - to feel a certain amount of sympathy for Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan in the aftermath of the bizarre finish Tuesday. One key Vancouver goal came after a missed icing call. Another came after a deflection off the glass that rivalled the Edmonton Oilers' own-goal (Steve Smith on Grant Fuhr) in the 1986 playoffs for overall quirkiness. It was that strange; and ultimately, will be that memorable.

According to Quinn, when you lose a game because great players make fabulous plays, that's far easier to accept than a referee or a linesman missing a call that ultimately affects the result.

Quinn made it to the Stanley Cup final with the 1994 Canucks and 1980 Philadelphia Flyers. On that first trip, a goal by New York Islanders winger Bob Nystrom that was offside - linesman Leon Stickle missed the call - cost the Flyers a chance to win the Cup.

"Those are the toughest to take," Quinn said. "I sit here, a sour guy when I think of a couple of final series that I was in. I was proud to be in both of them, but I'm sour about how they finished - and I'll be sour all my life.

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"In a lot of cases, I think the non-calls or the calls had a lot to do with the outcome of the games. So when that happens, you can't even look at your players afterward. All you can say is, 'Look, I know you tried your best; you gave everything.' "

Quinn says the excitement in Vancouver is palpable these days and hopes the city straddles the fine line between the mostly good-natured exuberance demonstrated during the 2010 Winter Olympics and the near riots that marred the celebrations in 1994.

"The hooligans, I hope they bop them on the head with a billy [club]and get them out of there, but the fans?" Quinn said. "Why not let them celebrate? As long as there's not damage. It's an excited city; but it's also a paranoid city. One bad thing happens and it's, 'Ooooh.'

"Everybody says you make your own luck, but gosh, I don't know. You prepare. You work every day to prepare for your team mentally for ups and downs and bad calls and that sort of thing. When you want things so badly, that gives you the burn in your heart that you never lose. Those [San Jose]kids will see that stanchion kick [the puck]that way for the rest of their lives because you're reminded that you're not holding the Cup and they are, or they could be."

Quinn was Vancouver's general manager in 1989 - another close call - when the Canucks lost in the first round, in Game 7, in overtime to the Calgary Flames on a goal that deflected in off the skate of Joel Otto as he charged towards the goal crease. Ten years later, Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff watched as the winning goal in the 1999 Stanley Cup being scored by Brett Hull with his foot in the crease - a no-no under that year's interpretation of the rules.

The moral of the story, Quinn says, is controversial calls and strange bounces have been around forever. They didn't show up for the first time in the 2011 postseason.

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"The [1989]overtime goal is kicked in by Joel Otto, who is in the crease," he said. "Then, Dallas wins a Cup and Buffalo loses it on the same sort of thing. Those are the sorts of things, you never forget and you never forgive."

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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