First of Many
BU's Quinn Gets 1st Win in Debut
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
BOSTON Dave Quinn joked around a few days before Friday night's season opener against Massachusetts. The first-year Boston University head coach, out of the college game since 2009, admitted he didn't know much about his first opponent. He hadn't seen UMass play in four years. A lot's changed in Amherst since he was last a coach in Hockey East.
UMass fans weren't thrilled with his comments, though, doing as fans do and misinterpreting the statement as a slight.
"I don't know a lot about anybody," Quinn joked. "I've been out of college hockey for four years. If you ask me about Boston College, I'll tell you the same thing. I can't make things up about teams. I just don't know a lot about them because I've been gone for four years."
His Terriers defeated the Minutemen, 3-1, in their season opener. The first of 34 regular-season games BU will play this year.
Quinn understands the discussions about pressure. He knows the expectations just like he did when he took the job. A few minutes with Quinn, though, and it's clear none of that matters. He wasn't thinking about Jack Parker when he stepped onto the bench before Friday's game. He just wanted to win a hockey game. That's all he's ever really wanted. There were a few other thoughts racing through his head, of course.
"I was thinking of my father again," he said. "He would've loved to see this, but, once the puck's dropped, it's a game. I was curious to see how we were going to play. We had seven minutes of power plays in the first period. Not that you don't want power plays, but guys want to get into the game."
At every level Quinn's coached at, the focus has been winning. The college game comes with an additional perk. Drawn back to Commonwealth Avenue by the chance to lead his alma mater and replace his mentor, Quinn exudes something that often becomes a secondary concern for coaches caught up in wins and losses.
"He's having fun," BU captain Garrett Noonan said. "He asks a lot of us, but he's been great so far. He understands that we're young players. He wants us to be creative. He wants us enjoy ourselves. We want to win hockey games, but we're having a good time doing it."
It's easier for players to enjoy themselves when they win. Earning their first victory of the season on Friday night quelled any potential conversations about waiting for that first win. The Terriers didn't play a perfect game against UMass — the Minutemen carried play for the most part and outshot BU, 40-24 — but they picked up a win for their new coach. Only 896 to coach to catch Parker.
Quinn was the maestro of a BU defensive unit that carried the Terriers to a national championship in the 2008-09 season. His influence on BU's current talented-but-erratic group of defensemen revealed itself almost instantly.
Without the puck, BU's forwards struggled Friday night. Gifted young blue liners Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen create chances as well as anyone. Against UMass, they played as well without the puck as they did in possession, accounting for the issues their teammates experienced. This wasn't often the case a year ago. Helping young players grow drew Quinn back to college hockey. Those opportunities existed at his jobs with the Colorado Avalanche organization, but not to the level of a collegiate coach.
"I've realized how much I missed college hockey," Quinn said. "I loved pro hockey. I wouldn't change anything about that experience for the world. This is special. This is a great opportunity to even be able to come back and to coach this team.
"I said this when I got the job. I loved pro hockey, but this is where I belong," he continued. "I was a coach in college hockey for 14 years. I enjoyed the relationships with young players. I like helping young players, obviously athletically, but there's more socially and academically. I'm having a ball. It's going to be a lot of fun this season watching these kids grow and become better hockey players and a better team."
Like Noonan said, Quinn's joy and overall love for his job has helped his player adapt to the new steward of their program. Winning his first game on Friday night with a second — against Holy Cross on Saturday — just hours away, there's only so much time to enjoy it. It's clear at this point, though, Quinn's enjoying every second of the job he called a dream when introduced earlier this year.
"I'm not just saying this. I've really never felt any pressure," Quinn said. "A lot of people have asked. The one thing I've realized, especially when I got into pro hockey, is you're just dealing with people. You can't get distracted by all of that stuff. I understand, from the outside, what this looks like. Jack was here 40 years. This was my first game. None of it ever crossed my mind. It really didn't. It was a hockey game. I was excited to start a new job. I wasn't really thinking about replacing Jack. No one can replace him, but I'm the head hockey coach at Boston University. I have a responsibility to these kids to help them get better and be composed. We have to have fun doing this."
A time will come this season when BU struggles or their new head coach seems a bit frustrated. It's inevitable really, and no season, especially in college hockey, is without its struggles. Dave Quinn isn't worried about that right now, though. He won his first game on Friday night, and there are many more to come. He's just having fun.