All Pat Burns

Here’s a review of the tributes on the passing of Pat Burns:

Mike Zeisberger talked to some of the Montreal Canadiens:

“Habs defenceman Hal Gill said Burns helped widen his vocabulary while the two were with the Boston Bruins.

“Some of his rants the next day and after practice were legendary,” Gill said. “Ask anyone who played for him. They’re not fit for anyone’s ears outside the locker room.

“He’d always grab something to throw too.”

In the end, Burns was Gill’s French teacher as well as coach. Sort of, anyway.

“Luckily I came to Montreal and have learned some of the (French words he used) after the fact. I just can’t use them with you guys.”

Joe Warmington had a nice piece too:

“Tributes are pouring in for the man who won the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 and coached the Boston Bruins — but in this country he’ll always have the unique distinction of having coached both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His death has fans of both teams mourning the loss and remembering the good times.

A Saturday night tilt between the Leafs and Habs has never been a place where hockey fans can find common ground.

But that will change tonight. It’s like it was written in a script.

Some things are bigger than a single game and Burns’ death will be on the minds of all fans at the Bell Centre tonight and watching on Hockey Night in Canada.

It will be the matchup Burns so desperately wanted in the spring of 1993 when his Leafs came so close to getting past Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the semi-finals for a chance to play his former team, Les Canadiens, in the Stanley Cup Final.”

The best tribute I have seen came from Bill Lankhoff:

“He was a man of all seasons — brusque when he had to be, yet lovable and funny when he wanted to be. He regarded his wife and his children with affection, and at that arena announcement he spoke with a tenderness he rarely showed during his very public vocation.

“As your life gets closer to the end, you realize that your body gets weaker, your mind gets working hard, but your heart gets softer. As you get closer to family, you get closer to God, there are things you realize along the way and all the great people you’ve worked with,” he told friends and a community that, in his heart, he never really left.

But, in Toronto, the springtimes of 1993 and ’94 still reasonate with Leafs fans as the best of times, and much of the credit belongs to Burns. He took over a disheartened collection of players who had won just 30 games and missed the 1991-92 playoffs under Tom Watt.

“I remember his first practice,” says Watters, then the team’s assistant general manager under Cliff Fletcher. “We had some bad practice habits and we were a soft team. We were scrimmaging and Pat blew the whistle and called everyone to the side. He put one foot on the boards like he was going to say something nice and friendly. And, he annihilated them verbally. From then on, guys were going to do things his way. The team he inherited had not been that good. They needed a sterner hand.”

Rosie DiManno wrote the lone piece for the Toronto Star:

“A man’s man, he was, but squishy at the core, sentimental and emotional, easily hurt by barbs, too proud to admit the mental whiplash of professional rejection, though well aware that it was always just a matter of time – in Montreal, in Toronto, in Boston. And, for other reasons – his failing health, which required surgery and chemotherapy and protracted hospital stays – in New Jersey too. But at least, by then, he’d reached the pinnacle of NHL success, a Stanley Cup ring on his finger.”

David Shoalts writes a really nice tribute as well:

“There were only two words to describe Pat Burns, those close to him say.

“Many times he said, ‘I’m a cop and a coach and that’s it,’” said his cousin Robin Burns, who was also his agent. “What most people admired most about Pat was that he was part of the blue-collar people. He was very down to earth.”

Red Fisher has a really well written piece for the Montreal Gazette:

“The last time I saw Burns was at the Bell Centre on the night Patrick Roy’s No. 33 was retired — Nov. 22, 2008. He was among those on the ice who had been asked to deliver a few words about the guest of honour. Burns sounded and looked so good there was speculation he was ready to return to coaching, particularly since he had served as one of the three assistants to Ken Hitchcock at the 2008 world championship. By then, however, he and others close to him already knew his lung cancer had become incurable.

Looking good is one thing, feeling good is something else. His health was deteriorating. The talons of this terrible disease wouldn’t let go.”

Jim Kelley has a unique take on Burns, and it’s a really good read:

“But Pat Burns knew why I had called and after awhile he brought the conversation around to the subject that had ruthlessly brought us together one last time. He had cancer; he had been battling it for years. It was a fight he would not win and he knew the end was near. I had been recently diagnosed. I needed help and he knew it.

“Well we’ve gone and got ourselves into one hell of a spot haven’t we,” he joked. “Who would have thought it would come to this.”

Ken Campbell get’s it right with his take:

” When you look at the body of work, it’s pretty difficult to fathom exactly what the Hall of Fame’s selection committee was thinking when it chose not to induct Pat Burns as a builder last June.

And it has nothing to do with the fact Burns was dying and likely wouldn’t live to enjoy the honor if it weren’t bestowed on him immediately. The man was one of the greatest coaches of his time, certainly among the best defensive mentors in the history of the game.”

The Boston Globe had a nice story:

“He was known as the cop-turned-hockey coach, as famous for his no-nonsense demeanor as for his sense of humor.

Most of all he was a fighter, but Pat Burns is fighting no more. Yesterday, he succumbed to cancer at the age of 58. Burns is the only winner of the Jack Adams Trophy as the National Hockey League coach of the year with three teams — Montreal (1989), Toronto (1993), and Boston (1998).”

Rich Chere has a great story in the NJ newspaper, The Star Ledger:

“There was the time at South Mountain Arena in West Orange. After a Devils practice, Burns came off the ice and started walking towards the dressing room. He wasn’t a particularly good interview after these practices, usually giving reporters five minutes of short, confrontational answers, but he had even less patience on this day.

I asked him something he didn’t appreciate and Burns blew his top. Towering above me in his skates, he started screaming with saliva flying in my face. We briefly yelled back and forth before assistant coach John MacLean stepped in and pushed Burns away.

I flew to Raleigh, N.C., later that same day and was sitting in Sullivan’s Steakhouse that evening when I looked across the room and saw Burns walking my way.

“Uh, oh. He’s coming back for more,” I thought.

Burns sat down next to me in the booth, put his arm around me and said: “Forget about what happened today. That was nothing. The same thing happened with me and Red Fisher in Montreal. That’s just me.”

“Remember,” MacLean said recently, “I saved your life that day with Burnsie.”

He didn’t, of course.”

Scott Morrison has a really nice perspective on a part of Burns few knew:

“Beyond hockey and coaching, Pat and I had a different kinship. I lost my wife, Kathy, to cancer two years ago. Like Pat, she battled long and hard and proud for many years and never pitied herself.

Pat would say, that was how he would be. Pat was coaching the Leafs when we first found out Kathy was sick. He wasn’t sick at the time, but he always asked about her, always kept the perspective.

When Pat first got sick, he would mention he had been mentored by Kathy.

Shortly after Kathy died, I went to see Pat five or so months later to do a piece for Hockey Night in Canada. He knew he was dying, was somewhat at peace with what was happening, or as good as any of us could ever hope to be, but before we started to roll the cameras, as I was trying to gauge how he was feeling, he kept turning the conversation to me, more concerned about me and my son Mark and how we were doing.

Finally I said, hey, I’m here to talk about you and he just shrugged and said there is more to the world than me. He was less concerned about what he was going through and more concerned with how we were doing so soon after our loss.

You couldn’t help but be taken by how selfless he was, that the coach was worried about others and not about himself.

I apologize if this story seems more about me than him, but I only wanted to convey the depth of the man, along with his heart, compassion and perspective.”



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