HHOF Profile: Pat Burns

Pat Burns Canadians

It is finally time for one of the greatest coaches in the NHL to enter the Hall of Fame but unfortunately he won’t be around to see it. Pat Burns is a fan favourite in every place that he worked as a hard-working no-nonsense type of coach. That kept him in the hearts of the fans far after he retired. That love for the coach is what created a movement for Burns when he was nearing his Hall of Fame eligibility. While still coaching in New Jersey Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer, which he beat, and then with liver cancer, which he also beat. That was enough to make him give up coaching as he fought a new battle off of the ice. Four years after beating liver cancer Burns announced that his colon cancer had returned and metastasized in his lungs. That meant that the cancer was inoperable and that treatment would do nothing else for the NHL coach. It was a stroke of very bad luck for a great man and it made many people spring into action. Pat Burns was rarely hated as a coach and the fans that had supported him began their own movement to honour the coach they loved. The movement began to bring about the inevitable and put Burns in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The only problem was that the common practice was to elect coaches only years after their retirement after their career could come into focus. The fans wanted Burns in as soon as possible because not only did they believe he deserved it but they believed he deserved to see it for himself. That was the major concern for many as Burns did not have a lot of time left and fans wanted him to see his own induction into the Hall of Fame. The Hockey Hall of Fame did not budge though and Burns remained on the outside looking in. For no known reason the committee would not put Burns in the hall with many believing that he had been blackballed by the voters due to his rough personality that endeared him to fans and alienated him from executives. So many said that they had not been the one to deny Burns but with no public ballot they could have said anything without anyone really knowing who had done it. The fact remains that the Hall of Fame made Burns wait and although he will enter the Hall of Fame this year he will not be here to see it himself. In November 2010 Burns succumbed to his battle with cancer and now he enters the half in a great honour that for many has come a little too late.

The stranger part about his non-election for the last few years is the fact that the stats and accomplishments are all there. Burns was quite literally one of the greatest coaches in NHL history. A 3-time Jack Adams Award winner Burns has a total record of 501-353-151-14 along with adding a Stanley Cup in 2003 as the head coach of the New Jersey Devils. It is everything that a coach that enters the Hockey Hall of Fame as he has a championship and a winning record that include over 500 wins plus accolades in the form of three coaching awards. There is not much more that a coach could do to make it into the hall of fame but still Burns remained outside of the hall and of his peers as the greatest coaches have all taken their spots among the best and now it is finally time for Burns to do the same. Much like other coaches Burns had dreamed of becoming an NHL star but just didn’t quite have enough to make it into the NHL as a player. He still loved the game though and began coaching in a local Quebec Bantam House League. He had found his spot in the sport then and began moving up the rankings after joining the Gatineau Olympiques. Three years after joining the QMJHL team he was invited to coach the AHL affiliate to the Montreal Canadiens and found himself in the NHL only a year later. That began a great career where Burns used his old school methods of defence and tough love to get the best out of his teams. He regularly led his teams to the playoffs and found plenty of success in franchises that at the time had struggled. Despite the success that Burns enjoyed he could never find that group of players that could bring a championship and many times his style rubbed general managers and executives the wrong way. Eventually he did find the combination and a franchise that believed in him when he won his only Stanley Cup Championship in 2003 solidifying his role as one of the best and putting him into the Hall of Fame.

pat_burns

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