REST IN PEACE Pat Burns
"You don't cry cause it's over, you're happy because it happened".
The hockey world and all its fans are mourning the loss of one of the best coach/mentor, trainer/friends, and all around good guys to have ever been part of the NHL. The effervescent Patrick (Pat) Burns died today at 58 years old, finally losing his bout with the cancer that plagued him for the last six years of his life.
Pat had coached the Toronto Maple Leafs,The Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils over a 14 year span finally capturing the "holy grail" of hockey supremacy The Stanley Cup in 2003 with those same Devils. He was able to retire in 2005 knowing the thrill of victory on the ice. His record as an NHL coach career was impressive 501 wins, 350 losses,161 ties, 14 overtime losses, in only 1019 games behind an NHL bench.
Also to his credit Pat was able to capture the Jack Adams Trophy awarded annually to the top coach in the NHL 3 times with his 3 different teams. But before he ever joined the NHL, Pat Burns learned the meaning of discipline and hard work as a Police Officer in his hometown of Gatineau Quebec. He was the catalyst in the arrest of Hell's Angels Motorcycle members when he bravely testified against the group in spite of threats to his life. This man had class.
Deciding police work was too dangerous, he decided to become a coach in Junior hockey in Quebec in the QMJHL coaching the Hull Olympiques 3 years, then moving to the American Hockey League where he refined his techniques, improving his skills with the Sherbrook Canadiens for one full season (1987-1988).
Montreal, became Pats home in September of 1988 when it was announced the Canadiens had hired a new head coach promoting him from the junior team to the NHL named Patrick Burns. It didn't take him long to get the team playing good hockey ending the season with 115 points and then getting all the way to the finals, where they eventually lost, and for 3 more years he guided the team to at least the semi finals in the playoffs each year. His zeal, and fiery rants at other team's coaches, players and fans as well as his own showed the serious side of this man and his passion for the game and integrity for his team and respect grew in the hearts of friend fan, and foe alike.
But in 1992 with Montreal ownership in turmoil Pat not satisfied, he jumped ship turning to the Habs arch rival the Toronto Maple Leafs where he coached the hard luck Leafs.Here he was not as successful as he was with his previous team, but still he put his stamp on the team for 4 years, getting Toronto to the playoffs each year. IN the fourth year 1996, during a so-so regular season he was unceremoniously fired by bigoted Toronto brass.
After taking a year off in 1997 the floundering Boston Bruins came calling and Pat was hired for his third NHL team. He stayed with the Bruins for another 4 years but again was not successful in capturing the Cup and once again in 2001 he got fired again. 2 firings in 5 years would have been enough to send most coaches into obscurity never to be heard from again, but not our Mr. Burns, to a vast surprise 1 year later in 2002 the New Jersey Devils hired him as their coach that same year.
He rewarded Devils brass the first year, 2002-2003, bringing the Devils to first place during the regular season, behind the superb goal-tending of Marty Brodeur, and then capturing the only Stanley Cup he ever would be coach for. In 2004 still with the Devils it was discovered he had cancer in his colon. No wonder the Devils lost in the first round of the playoffs to a team they should have throttled. Well Pat beat that colon cancer that same year but decided to fore-go any more coaching duties as his strength was zapped.
In 2005 when everybody was predicting he would be back behind the bench again, the hockey world learned this passionate man had cancer for a second time, this time in his liver. Now it was evident to all who knew and loved him, he was in a real battle here. But his zest for life and his family helped him recover and he beat cancer again. Never a quitter he took a job with Devils as a special assignment coach which he held up to 2009.
Once again in 2009 Pat had to announce he had lung cancer this time. Finding this time it was terminal, he and his family bravely soldiered on in the face of death. and he continued making public appearances, never talking about his fate but preferring to remember the good things he experienced throughout his career.
When the world found out he would soon be a goner, a cry went up to get Pat Burns into the NHL Hall Of Fame. A Facebook page in his honor started in 2010 led to a petition which holds over 72,000 names, but was not successful to getting Pat into the HOF as of his passing today. Shame on you HOF staff and voters, he belongs there and if it couldn't be done in his life then get it done in his death's honor. An arena that he was able to see a part of the beginning, is being built in his honor too at Stanstead College.
Though he won't see it ever used, he admitted how proud he was of that honor too, and hoped that from above (heaven) he would be permitted to see it in use. Well the end came today as with his family by his side he passed away. He will be sadly missed by anyone who knew him or of him, and that picture at the top is how I want to remember him. R.I.P. Pat Burns GONE but NEVER forgotten.