Really, there are more depressing things in life than a person being elected to a Hall of Fame posthumously. All I need to do is write “Haiti” or “Chile” or “Katrina.” Still, a person worthy of honor shouldn’t hear the news in the afterlife. That’s just way too big of a bummer for what should be a happy time.
Pat Burns deserves to be in the NHL Hall of Fame. He deserves to do it in his lifetime. Open the doors early if you have to. After all, the league clearly bends the rules sometimes – just look at the early admissions of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
My timeline of Burns’ career displays all of the number-based credentials. The 500 (OK, 501) win career. Three Jack Adams awards and a Stanley Cup. But according to Steve Ovadia of Puck Update, his superlative Bill Parcells-ian mind games during the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils’ Cup run are what makes him truly worthy.
The thing I love most about NHL coaching is that in a lot of ways, it’s really more about persona and performance than Xs and Os. You can have no understanding of hockey and still motivate your players, probably relying on your assistant coaches to handle the tactical issues, and you can probably have a decent team. But if you’re a brilliant hockey mind and can’t motivate your players, odds are, your team is going to be pretty bad.
For my money, no one was a better coach/performer than Pat Burns when he was with the Devils. The man started out the 2002-03 season demeaning the players, putting them through tough drills, and making their lives miserable. During the course of the season, Burns would ever so gradually take his foot off of his team’s neck, so that by the time the playoffs came around, the players loved him, simply because he stopped torturing them. The team hung on his every word and were ready to follow him anywhere, simply because he let up on them at just the right time in the season.
It’s heartening to see the momentum build up for Burns. Puck Daddy noted that building interest, which includes a growing Facebook group devoted to the movement. If you’re with me on this, I highly recommend joining the group and supporting the efforts to get the great coach in the HoF before he dies.