For the second time this season, the Air Canada Centre was brought up to it's feet and down to tears by a man who barely set foot in the building as a player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wendel Clark only saw half a season of action in "the Hanger while Doug Gilmour never set foot in the building—he had the opportunity following his trade back to Toronto in 2003, but he suffered an ultimately career-ending knee injury in his first game back with the Leafs in Calgary.
Both of them have certainly thrown parties to be proud of though, and their numbers are now proudly "honored" amongst those who share in the legendary lore of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The entire night was an honorable affair: From the throwback 93 jerseys the Leafs wore to honor Killer, to the banner emblazoned with his likeness that was raised to the rafters, to the treatment of his family, to Don Cherry's tribute (and kiss on the cheek) the evening painted an iconic picture of the once-Crown Prince of Leafdom returning to his stomping grounds.
The most endearing moment of the night however was the speech Gilmour prepared for the occasion.
He thanked the Maple Leafs, the MLSE, the management of the Maple Leafs (including Brian Burke, Jeff Jackson, and Dave Nonis), Cliff Fletcher for bringing him to Toronto, his past teammates, and the fans.
But most importantly, he thanked a man who's been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
He thanked Pat Burns.
As has been well-documented, Pat Burns has been diagnosed with Cancer for a third time. Unlike his previous two bouts with the disease however, Burns is looking towards other options rather than chemotherapy.
While some may spell doom and gloom over the disease though, Burns isn't looking behind him, or holding his head down; he's moving forward, moving onward, and moving upwards.
Under the same light as which he coached, Burns is taking a no-nonsense approach to battling the disease: He plays golf, he still attends hockey games as a scout for the New Jersey Devils, and he still rides his motorcycle amidst the sunny banks of Florida.
If anyone is saying 'woe is me', it certainly isn't Burnsy.
"I don't want pity. That's the last thing I want from anybody.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the time I've got left"...
Simple words from a man whose enjoyed a simply successful career: 500 career wins as a coach, three Jack Adams awards, and a Stanley Cup in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils; The team and the General Manager—Lou Lamoriello—who've got Burns out-and-about, scouting out the league, and proving he's still one of the best hockey minds around.
Further cementing that Hall-of-Fame resume is the fact that, of the All-Time leaders amongst NHL Coaches (past and present), Burns is one of two coaches (the other being Billy Reay) to be amongst the top-ten in regular season wins and not amongst the top-ten in games coached.
For Leafs fans, you may also remember him as the man who took the Leafs on one of their most-magical playoff runs post-1967 in 1993.
Kind of fitting that, at a ceremony honoring the Leafs' own great #93, Burns received the second-loudest ovation of the night from an appreciative fan base, whose only bitter memory of that run is a missed call from Kerry Fraser.
The applause and cheering wasn't out of pity; it wasn't out of sadness, or a nagging sense of inevitability. The applause was out of respect, appreciation, and adoration for a man who not only brought the Leafs back from the brink, but only finished two full seasons under-.500 with four teams and thirteen seasons (not counting his eight-game 2000/01 stint with the Boston Bruins).
Doug Gilmour was a hockey hero, Pat Burns is a real-life hero—kind of fitting that, in a bit of a distant way, both had their moment on Saturday night.
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