by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Just a few weeks ago, David Quinn figured life couldn’t get much better after the Boston University squad that he worked for as an associate head coach won the NCAA championship.
A couple friends proved him wrong. Specifically, Colorado assistant GM Craig Billington and new Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
"I was absolutely ready to go back to BU," Quinn said. "The more success you are associated with, the more opportunity you get. If you told me a month ago I’d be head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, I’d have told you you are crazy."
And yet, here sits Quinn in his first pro head-coaching role, running the Monsters. Quinn, 42, was named the replacement for Sacco in that spot after spending the last five seasons as associate coach of the Terriers.
Sacco and Quinn have been friends ever since they skated together at BU. Colorado has three draft picks now playing at that school, so Quinn struck up a relationship with Billington via that common interest. When the Monsters needed a new coach, tapping Quinn was like reaching out to a family member.
"Joe obviously had nothing but good things to say about his two years here. It’s an American Hockey League team run like an NBA or NHL team," Quinn said of Lake Erie, which is owned and operated by the Cavaliers. "I have a lot of friends who are head coaches at the AHL level. They said it was the best job they ever had."
Quinn comes to the job with just about as weighty an apprenticeship as possible. His experience with young players includes two seasons (2002-04) as head coach of the U.S. National Under-17 Team within USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and six seasons (1996-2002) as the top assistant coach for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
"I’ve always enjoyed helping players develop. To me, hockey is hockey," he said. "Most of these players I’m coaching (at Lake Erie) will be the same age as the college guys."
If Quinn needs to further dip into a well of experience, his own playing career covers the span from hero to heartache. A standout defenseman during his three-year career at BU, Quinn was the Minnesota North Stars’ first selection, 13th overall, in the 1984 Entry Draft.
But prior to his senior season, Quinn was diagnosed with a blood disorder called Christmas Disease – a form of hemophilia – that eventually forced him to retire from the game. Medication controls the ailment.
"I’ve moved past that. I wouldn’t trade anything in at all," Quinn said. "Not everything is going to happen the way you think it’s going to happen. The way you handle adversity is going to go a long way toward determining if they (players) are going to have an NHL career."