Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON - Barely into adulthood, Doug Quinn had already soured on the game he grew up loving.
The Western Hockey League standout lost his affection for hockey somewhere in the wreckage of a terrible car accident that shattered his femur and broke several bones in his back, effectively ending the then 19-year-old’s NHL dreams in cruelly abrupt fashion.
So disheartened was Quinn that there were moments he seriously considered walking away from the rink and hanging up his skates for good.
Instead, he stepped onto the campus of the University of Calgary and pulled on a Dinos jersey.
“Almost immediately I found a passion for the game again and enjoyed every minute of it,” Quinn says.
A 1983 pick of the Vancouver Canucks, Quinn played five seasons with the U of C men’s hockey team between 1986 and 1991, helping the Dinos win a pair of Canada West titles and capturing a slew of individual honours, all while receiving a post-secondary education that helped shape the successful business owner-operator of Q2 Artificial Lift Services that he is today.
“I was planning initially to play hockey as a career, and I was at a certain level when I got drafted and then after breaking my leg it took me a few years to get back to the level similar to what I had before, so it wasn’t fun,” the Red Deer native says.
“Once I went back to university, I just really enjoyed the environment, enjoyed the people I was playing with (and) the coaches. They made it a real great experience for me.”
With the six-foot-two Quinn anchoring its blueline and a staff that at various points included future NHL head coaches Willie Desjardins, Mike Johnston and George Kingston, Calgary won Canada West titles in 1988 and 1990. Quinn was an All-Canadian and received the Mervyn “Red” Dutton Trophy as Canada West Defenceman of the Year in each of his final three seasons (1988-89, 1989-90, 1990-91).
“We were just a really good team,” he says. “Some of the best coaching I ever had was George Kingston, Willie Desjardins and Mike Johnston. I learned a lot and played with a great group of people.
“I think when you’re in a comfortable environment and feel good about who you’re playing with and working towards a common goal, indirectly you get individual success, so it was a real positive experience for me.”
Upon graduating from the Calgary with an economics degree minoring in management, Quinn returned to Red Deer to work at his father’s oilfield business, the forerunner to Q2. He worked in various positions, including president, before buying the company when his father retired about 20 years ago. Today Q2 is recognized as an industry leader, and its manufacturing facility has grown to a 66,000 square-foot shop.
“Finishing my education really helped when I moved back home and moved into the family business,” says Quinn. “Being a business owner now and looking back at all the people over the years that have worked for me, I know that getting some kind of education does make such a difference in the way people think and act.”
The game Quinn almost left called him back again about a decade ago, when he started coaching the Red Deer Chiefs of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League. Under Quinn’s direction, the team has reached unprecedented heights, winning its first two national championships, back to back, in 2012 and 2013.
“Once I got coaching full-time I fell in love with that part of it and enjoyed taking a team, building it and helping the kids build, grow and mature,” Quinn says. “In some ways, I probably like coaching more than I liked playing.”
The midget players he coaches today aren’t much younger than Quinn was when he broke into the WHL as a 17-year-old in 1982-83, playing 55 games with the Nanaimo Islanders and catching the eye of the Canucks, who drafted Quinn 90th overall following the season.
Quinn registered 30 points in 68 WHL games for the New Westminster Bruins in 1983-84, before his progress was halted by the car crash that changed his course. The injuries set Quinn back, and the Canucks would eventually relinquish his rights.
After being traded from New Westminster to the Lethbridge Broncos, Quinn’s junior eligibility ran out in 1986. Standing at a crossroads, he decided to attend Calgary because of the opportunity to play for Kingston, who had made an impression on Quinn at a clinic several years earlier.
“I always remembered that, so when the decision came to play, that’s where I wanted to go – I wanted to play for George,” says Quinn, who suited up for roughly 150 games with the Dinos.
“I really enjoyed playing university hockey, and the school obviously was important” he says.
“Sometimes I wonder if I was there for the hockey and the school was something I just had to do to stay eligible, but in hindsight, I learned a lot not only through my education, but also from some very good people on how to build hockey teams.
“George Kingston, Willie Desjardins, Mike Johnston are some key people that have really helped me, and some of the experiences that I’ve had from both (education and hockey) have certainly helped as far building this company.”
As an accomplished amateur hockey coach who oversees a flourishing business, the 52-year-old Quinn has a remarkable perspective on the life-altering auto accident.
“It might have been a bit of a blessing in disguise for me, because I went to university and got my education and ended up going into the family business where if I probably would have gone on to play hockey, my father probably would have sold the company.”
About the CW Alumni Spotlight:
Each year a new crop of Canada West student-athletes graduate and begin to make an impact in their communities as professionals. The CW Alumni Spotlight series looks to highlight the positive impact former CW student-athletes are making in communities across Western Canada and beyond.
Canada West – training leaders, building champions.