Pat Burns a Class Act and Legend Who Will Never be Forgotten

Joe GillenCorrespondent INovember 20, 2010

Pat Burns with Wife Lynne during the NHL Presenters Welcome Reception at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17, 2009.
Pat Burns with Wife Lynne during the NHL Presenters Welcome Reception at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 17, 2009.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This is a sad day in the hockey world.  

Pat Burns, the former Montreal Canadiens and Toronto maple Leafs coach, has passed away.

Pat Burns died Friday afternoon after a lengthy battle with cancer. At 58, he died while surrounded by his family at La Maison Aube-Lumière in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Pat Burns was one of the most successful NHL coaches over the past 20 years.

During his 14-year NHL coaching career, Burns posted a 501-353-151-14 record in 1,019 games behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2003.

Pat Burns is the only person in league history to win three Jack Adams Trophies, awarded to the NHL's coach of the year.

He will always be remembered for success as a bench boss, for his humour, his humanity and a passion for the game.

A former Police officer from Gatineau, Quebec, he took over the Montreal Canadiens coaching job in 1988.

Burns previously coached the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Hull Olympiques and the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the American Hockey League, before making the jump to the big club.

Within a year, Pat Burns brought his Habs to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Calgary Flames.

At the end of the 1988-89 season, Pat Burns captured his first Jack Adams award.

In 1993, Burns took his hard-knock coaching ways to Toronto, where he became the Leafs' new coach. Burns was an immediate impact, leading his Toronto Maple Leafs to the 1993 conference finals and winning another Jack Adams Trophy in just his first season with the Buds.

Cliff Fletcher, senior adviser and the general manager at the time, brought Burns to Toronto to lead his club back in the right direction. Mr. Fletcher had nothing but respect and confidence in Mr. Burns.

After four seasons in Toronto, Burns was fired by the organization, but not before making the conference finals in 1993, where they lost to the LA Kings. Burns' former team, the Montreal Canadiens, won the Stanley Cup over the LA Kings, winning the series in five games.

Pat Burns wasn't out of work for long as he landed a job 1998 with the Boston Bruins as their new head coach. Burns coached the bean town boys of Boston from 1998-2001, where he made the playoffs two out of his four seasons there. After a horrible start to the 2000-2001 season, Burns was fired by the Bruins after only eight games.

He was then signed by the New Jersey Devils, where he had the last laugh as he guided the Devils past the Boston Bruins in the first round.

Pat Burns' dream would come true, as he won the Stanley Cup in Burns' fashion over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

He was forced to step down from his coaching duties with the Devils in 2003-04, as he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Burn survived colon cancer but was diagnosed with liver cancer the following year.

Once again, he beat it and appeared to be back to normal.

In 2009, Burns was diagnosed a third time; this time with lung cancer.

He moved to Florida where he lived his final years with his wife, and where he was the consultant for the New Jersey Devils.

Burns remained in Tampa Bay where he attended a number of NHL games.

He never wanted family, friends and fans to pity him, saying, "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me. I've had a great life, I've had an enjoyable life, I've had some fun," in 2009.

There was a number of false reports on September 17th, 2010 that Mr. Burns had died, but he confirmed to Scott Morrison of Hockey Night in Canada he was very much alive and merely visiting family in Quebec.

Burns said, "Tell them I'm alive. Set them straight."

The hockey world and his family were in shock at these false accusations. 

Pat Burns made his final public appearance in October in Stanstead, Quebec for the groundbreaking ceremony for an arena that will be named after him in the upcoming months. 

Canada, and the hockey world for that matter, has lost a legend, an icon and one of the greatest faces the game has even seen.

Burns touched a lot of people in the hockey world, including his players and the fans.

Pat Burns was a courageous man with a big heart, nad a love for life, the game and his family.

Mr. Burns will "not soon be forgotten."