Friday, November 19, 2010

Pat Burns passes away at 58

Former Devil coach Pat Burns passed away Friday at the age of 58, leaving behind a great legacy that included becoming the only coach to win the Jack Adams with three different teams while leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2003.

In some very sad news, Pat Burns passed away today at the age of 58, succumbing to cancer. After beating the terrible disease twice after leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2003, he learned that it had spread to his lungs January of 2009. Initially, he didn't go for treatment but eventually opted for chemotherapy.

The former cop with the keen sense of humor had a distinguished coaching career, becoming the only coach to win the Jack Adams with three different teams (Montreal-1989, Toronto-1993, Boston-1998). He guided the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final losing to Calgary and took the Maple Leafs to consecutive Western Conference Finals. It took a new century for Burns to win the ultimate prize, taking the '02-03 Devils to Lord Stanley.

"I owe a lot to Lou [Lamoriello]," Burns recalled after being out of the game two years before the Devil President and GM gave him another opportunity behind the bench. "I was out of the game for two years and I read a lot of articles saying I was done and I wasn't the style of coach people wanted. He believed in me."

"Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey," Lamoriello said in a statement while hinting that Burns would get his day in the Hockey Hall Of Fame soon. "Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador."

It was in his second year with New Jersey that he knew something was wrong heading into the '04 postseason. After the Devils were eliminated, he announced that he had colon cancer, asking Lou to replace him. Larry Robinson took over following the lockout. "For those who know me well, I've never backed down from any fight, and I'm not going to back down from this one," he proclaimed.

After defeating the first round, it was discovered he had liver cancer in 2005. Burns again conquered the deadly disease and even returned to coaching, helping work with Team Canada for the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Halifax and Quebec City. That same season, former Canadien all-time great goalie Patrick Roy asked his former coach to come to his jersey retirement ceremony at the Bell Centre.

When he was stricken the third time, Burns knew his days were numbered. However, as prideful a man as he was, he still tried to do as much as possible, scouting games near his Tampa home.

"I miss the practice times; I miss the morning skates," Burns told CBC. "There was something about before a hockey game -- that electricity that existed -- that I really, really miss and probably that's why I like going to games because I can feel some of it, anyway."
After leading the Hull Olympiques to the Memorial Cup Final in 1986, Burns emerged from the Habs' farm system turning into one of the best coaches of our game. If not for the backing of Wayne Gretzky, who knows if Burns would've gone onto great success, winning 501 games over 14 years with Montreal, Toronto, Boston and New Jersey. In 1,019 career games, he went 501-353-151-14. His postseason record was 78-71 including the memorable Game Seven that saw him dress Ken Daneyko en route to a 3-0 shutout of Anaheim for the Devils' third Cup. He'd later admit that winning the championship was the crowning achievement of his career.

"He definitely was the best coach I had in my career," said former Toronto netminder Felix Potvin. "He was hard, but honest."

Burns leaves behind his loving wife, son and daughter. May you shine above smiling down when they unveil your HHOF crown.

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