Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pat Burns Remembered

Thanks to our Hockey Guru Chris Wassel for this restrospective on former New Jersey Devils Coach Pat Burns
Friday, 19 November 2010 
(Photo Credit:  La Presse / CP Images

I can say this for so many but it is really true that there will never be another Pat Burns in the sport of hockey.  He was unique in so many ways but add in what he did off the ice and few will question this guy’s resolve till the very end.  Pat Burns died with family at the tender age of 58. He left us far too young and had battled so hard to fight off cancer on several occasions.  This time it was too aggressive and had spread far too much.
Despite several rumors of his death, Pat Burns was still fighting hard before his death.  He famously told media “I ain’t bleepin dead yet!” on October 9th after rumors suggesting his passing were proven to be erroneous.  Say what you will about Pierre LeBrun but this piece on Pat Burns hits right to the heart of the matter.  As a fan of the New Jersey Devils I was treated to a few years of this great man and one magic Stanley Cup run with a team that many felt did not deserve Lord Stanley’s hardware.  Yet the grit and heart that Pat Burns brought to the table rubbed off on a Devils team like few expected.  In the end, they found a way to win their third Stanley Cup in team history and give Coach Burns memories to last a lifetime.
It was sad in April of 2004 when it was reported that Pat Burns had cancer the first time.  I was privileged to interview the Coach several times during his stay in New Jersey and even when he was a scout for the team.  One of the most important things was that fire.  That burning desire to do things right the first time made Burns who he was.  He once told me, “why bother to even make the effort if you are only going to half finish a job.”  The man was right as always.  Coach Burns had a way with players and just look at what Doug Gilmour thought of him.  The fire on the ice often hid a very different man off the ice.
That man was the one that very few knew and even media and/or bloggers did not know the full measure of this Quebec native.  There are too many words for the human spirit that cannot do Pat Burns justice.  The New Jersey Devils organization and the National Hockey League feel a tremendous loss tonight.  Here are quite a few words from the Devils:
Pat Burns, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the 2003 Stanley CupChampionship, and served as a member of the team’s coaching staff the past eight seasons,passed away today after a courageous bout with cancer at Maison Aube-Lumiere inSherbrooke, Que.
“On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, weare all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns,” said Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns’ family.”
Pat Burns served as the Devils’ head coach from June 13, 2002-July 8, 2005 before stepping down due to personal reasons. He became just the 11th individual in NHL history to reach the 1,000 games-coached mark on February 27, 2004, and was the ninth to reach the 500-win plateau on March 30, 2004. Burns led the club to a 46-26-10=108pt (.622) record and its third Stanley Cup Championship in 2002-03. He posted a career mark of 501-353-165 (.573) in1,019 NHL games coached.
Burns’ previous NHL head coaching position included Boston from May 21, 1997 until October 25, 2000, leading the Bruins to two trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 1997-98, he became the first coach in history to win three Jack Adams Awards as the league’s top coach,leading Boston to a 39-30-13=91pt mark. Burns coached Toronto from May 29, 1992 through March 5, 1996 and posted two forty-win campaigns, leading the Maple Leafs to the conference championship following the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. In his first season with Toronto, he led the Leafs to a franchise-record 32-point improvement, and received the Adams Award for the second time. Burns became just the third individual to win multiple Adams Awards and only the second to win it with more than one team.
His first NHL head coaching experience was with Montreal from 1988-89 through 1991-92. Burns led the Canadiens to a league-leading 174-104-42 (.609) mark during that time, including two 41-win seasons and a 53-18-9=115pt (.719) mark in 1988-89. In his first season with the Canadiens, he led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals and won his first Adams Award.
Burns was promoted to the position of Montreal’s head coach after spending one season with the AHL’s Sherbrooke Canadiens in 1987-88. He served as head coach of Hull(QMJHL) for four seasons from 1983-84 through 1986-87, including a trip to the MemorialCup in 1986. Burns was selected to coach the QMJHL All-Star Team on two occasions and served as an assistant coach of the 1986 Canadian National Junior Team. An arena being built in Stanstead, Quebec will bear his name and was dedicated on March 26, 2010. Prior to his coaching career, Burns served as a police officer in Gatineau, Quebec. He was born April 4, 1952 in St. Henri, Quebec.
Pat Burns is survived by his beloved wife, Line, his daughter, Maureen, son, Jason,stepdaughter, Stephanie, stepson, Maxime, and grandson, Samuel.  Funeral arrangements will be announced over the next few days.
Sadly Pat Burns never got to realize his dream on making the Hockey Hall Of Fame before his passing but that is another story for another day.  While we are deeply emotional about his death, we must also remember how full of life he was.  Any person that even met Pat once said that he left nothing out there.  Every facet of his life was that way whether he was cop, family man, or Coach.
Speaking to a few former Devils this evening, they all said the same thing.  Celebrate this man’s life because although it was cut too short, it was always lived at the F on the fuel meter and nowhere near the E.  He was remembered for being so tough and austere but yet he had a soft side to him as well.
Devil fans fondly remember how Burns inserted Ken Daneyko into the lineup for Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals against Anaheim.  Some say it won the Devils the Cup but it proved that no matter how much Pat Burns wanted to win, he was never above doing the right thing for his team and the fans as well.
As a fan I was better for knowing Pat Burns.  As a writer, Pat Burns taught me quite a few things about the business and always made me feel comfortable when talking to him.  As a man, he made me feel more like one because even in death, he lived life like many of us wish we could.
Pat Burns is being honored in the NHL world in many different ways.  I am sure the cities of Toronto, Boston, Montreal, and Newark will have something very special for the former Ottawa cop who brought that rugged nature from the beat to the ice and captured our hearts even in his darkest hour.
What is your favorite Pat Burns memory?  Later tonight, Videos Before Bedtime becomes Pat Burns Before Bedtime in honor of one of the best coaches the NHL has ever seen, a future Hall Of Famer and truly a man in every sense of the word.  We miss you Pat…we miss you so much.  

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