Saturday, November 20, 2010

Patty Burns 1952-2010

It's a sad day in the hockey world. 

Pat Burns died at the age of 58 after a long battle with Cancer.

He was a man famous for his freak-outs. Seriously, I always thought he'd die right on the bench from a heart attack or a vein that would spectacularly pop in his neck.

But those freak-outs paid off, Pat Burns was intense and ruled his teams with an iron fist. And he was one hell of a coach. In just 14 years, Burns won three Jack Adams awards for the NHL's best coach.

After serving as a police officer in the Gatineau area, he started his coaching career in the QMJHL in 1984 with the Hull Olympiques. In his second season as coach he led the franchise to its most successful campaign where the Olympiques finished first in the league and then went on a spectacular 15-0 run in the playoffs to win the QMJHL title which earned them a Memorial Cup appearance.

"I think he paved the way for other coaches, coaches could see that coaching in the Quebec league you could move on and go to bigger and greater things," says Kim Houston with NHL Central Scouting.

The tributes poured in all over the hockey world, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper who took time while at a NATO summit in Lisbon to release a statement. 

"He was known for his tough and gritty approach to the game of hockey. He met his final and most difficult battle with that same tough and gritty spirit," said Harper. "Canada has lost a sports legend today, but Pat Burns' legacy will live on in the players and coaches whose careers he touched, as well as the young people who will skate in the Pat Burns Arena for years to come. He will not soon be forgotten."

Burns was a colourful character as well, often showing up to the arena on a motorcycle, and often seeming like a crusty, gruff man. But he also had a soft side. 

"Behind that gruff style that big growl you know it was a lovable guy," Hockey Night in Canada producer John Shannon told the Fan 590. "There was always a glint in his eye, a smile on his face and when you were one-on-one and you shared an adult beverage you had a great time and you knew he loved the game as much as you did."

Jennifer Casey was born and raised in Halifax. She loves all sports but tries to stick to writing about hockey for sanity purposes. You can follow her on twitter @jenncaseyhfx or find her on her blog National Passtime

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