Legendary NHL head coach Pat Burns has passed away today at the age of 58. The three-time Jack Adams Award winner lost his valiant fight with terminal lung cancer today after fighting the disease as well as fending off premature reports of his death months ago. Burns’ NHL legacy shows that he won the Jack Adams Award while the head coach of three different teams (Montreal, Toronto, and Boston). Burns was the bench boss for just one Stanley Cup championship team in his lifetime, leading the 2003 New Jersey Devils to a championship over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Burns will go down as being one of the few figures in NHL history that could unite fans of the Canadiens, Bruins, and Maple Leafs in at least one sentiment, that being their appreciation and adoration of Burns as a head coach. While head coach of the Leafs, Burns work with the 1993 Leafs in leading them to the Western Conference finals gave Leafs fans of a new generation a reason to love the team, a kind of adoration for a team that hasn’t waned today even in spite of the team’s shortcomings.
The New Jersey Devils released a statement tonight expressing their condolences to the Burns family.
“On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns,” said Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
“Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns’ family.”
Burns’ life did not end without controversy, however, as he was eligible to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame this past year and with his health being in dire condition battling lung cancer, many assumed that Burns would be elected to the hall post-haste so that he could enjoy the due accolades with his peers. Burns wasn’t elected leading many fans and writers, myself included, to be left saddened and dismayed that the Hall of Fame voting committee could neglect getting Burns in before he passed away.
Today isn’t a day to get angry about this again, however, as those on the committee will have to deal with knowing they passed on Pat Burns before he could live to see his enshrinement. Instead, fans and supporters alike can pick up the torch from Pat Burns and continue to do their part to fight cancer any way they can by giving to charity. With the amount of work Hockey Fights Cancer has done already this year in the NHL, there’s no more of an appropriate organization to lend support to. While Burns’ passing is sad news, celebrating the man’s life and his accomplishments is what to focus on today. The Hall of Fame anger can be put aside for a little while.