At first glance, David Quinn was a NHL bust.
Entering his senior season at Boston University in 1987, Quinn had the potential for greatness. A two-time New England first-team all-star, he'd been selected 13th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1984. He was drafted ahead of Kevin Hatcher, Scott Mellanby and Patrick Roy.
Quinn, a hulking defenseman with good skating ability, had 1988 Olympic dreams to accomplish before embarking on his sure to be lengthy NHL career. But then he received news that would change his life forever.
In 1986, blood tests revealed Quinn suffered from the very rare disease Hemophilia B, better known as "Christmas Disease." The disease is not named after the holiday, but rather after an Englishman named Michael Christmas, who in 1952 became the first person diagnosed with the disease. Current figures suggest 3000 North Americans suffer from the disease.
Christmas disease prevents the victim's blood from clotting properly. It was the reason behind Quinn's growingly mysterious injury history at BU. He would miss several games at a time due to severe bruising and swelling.
Quinn Refused To Quit
At the time, there was no medical help for the ailment. Doctors advised Quinn to stop playing hockey, but Quinn refused. To the disappointment of his family Quinn signed waivers releasing Boston University from any legal responsibility from injuries suffered.
Quinn survived the season, but sprained his ankle in 1987 while playing a game of pick up basketball on campus. The intense internal bleeding horribly swelled his ankle, forcing the need for 5 operations in 5 weeks.
After that incident, doctors flat out told Quinn his athletic career was over.
Turns To Coaching
Quinn stayed in school, earning a degree in sociology in 1989. He also helped coach the junior varsity team, planting the seeds for a career behind the bench.
Quinn's life was definitely heading away from the rink upon graduation though. He got a job as a sales agent with a development company in his native Rhode Island before catching on with a sports agent back in Boston.
In January 1991 the Quinn family learned of an experimental drug called MonoNine being developed by Armour Pharmaceutical Co. of Pennsylvania. The drug could replace the missing clotting agents in the patient's blood, but the infant drug was not, at that time, approved by the Federal Drug Administration in the United States.
While the drug was being pushed to repair injuries, Quinn's doctors arranged for experimental usage in order to prevent injuries. Quinn would take four injections per day. The pharmaceutical company donated the supply of the medicine, reportedly at a market cost as high as $1 million a year, in exchange for the publicity while pursuing FDA approval.
With tests suggesting the drug was really working for him, Quinn returned to the ice. He was determined to fulfill his previous Olympic dreams. Calgary '88 was taken from him, but he was determined to make the US Olympic team that competed in Albertville, France in 1992.
Unfortunately the miracle comeback fell just short. 25 days prior to the Olympics Quinn was cut. After working off 3 years of inactivity and 30lbs of flab, Quinn's injury history caught up with him. After enduring Team USA's grueling exhibition schedule, coaches felt Quinn was back to 85 or even 90% capability when he suffered a could of thigh bruises which set him back.
The thigh bruises that kept him out of the Olympics had little to do with his disease.
"The medicine seems to work very well," said coach Dave Peterson, who had known Quinn from the 1986 national junior team. "He's been cut, he's been bumped and bruised. And, basically, he was able to do everything and we were able to treat him as a normal hockey player."
His Olympic dreams dashed yet again, Quinn was able to take it in better stride this time around. He would always tell reporters "I have nothing to lose, anything that happens is a bonus."
NHL Still Interested
Bonuses included reported interest from the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. He ended up signing a tryout contract with the New York Rangers and finished the 1991-92 season with Binghamton (AHL). He then played the entire 1992-93 season with Cleveland (IHL) before retiring for good in 1993.
Back Behind The Bench
Quinn returned to the collegiate hockey scene, looking to keep his connection with the game he loved. He was named Northeastern assistant coach prior to 1993-94 season and remained in position until July 1996, later serving in the same position with Nebraska-Omaha until June 2002. He left that school to jump at the offer of head coach of the U.S. Under-17 team head coach, a position he manned until 2004. He later returned to his alma mater Boston University where he was named as an associate coach on June 14, 2004.