Rest In Peace, Pat Burns

I first became aware of Pat Burns when I was living in Ottawa and he was the brash young bilingual coach of the Hull Olympiques, just across the river. He stood out because he wasn’t like most coaches; he wore leathers and rode a Harley on days off, and he was a cop when he began making his way up the coaching ranks.

And although he could be a charmer, he could also explode with the best of them when his players weren’t behaving as they should, and pictures of the ex-cop fuming were seen often in local papers.

Everyone knew not to mess with Pat Burns, then and later. He was a man’s man who had friends in hockey and friends on the edges of society. This was someone who was at ease with all types, maybe because of his days patrolling the mean streets. My friend Gary lupul, who played for Canucks and who also passed away, was the same type of guy – completely at home with guys who had graduated from the school of hard knocks, guys with pasts. It’s a quality both of them had and not all of us have.

Pat Burns fought the fight and has lost, and we’ve lost a great man, plain and simple. He was well aware his time was coming quickly but being the tough hombre he was, he battled to the end with strength and grace.

Thank you, Pat, for what you did as a leader of men, and especially, from a Montreal Canadiens fan, what you did during those four years in Montreal, taking them to the finals in your first at-bat, and winning Coach of the Year for your expertise. And in the following three years, you led our team into the second round each time and you did it with flair, humour, and sometimes rage. I think the old Forum must have shuddered and trembled at some of your classic explosions when things weren’t going as planned.

Maybe that’s why they had to close the Forum – you weakened the foundation.

It must be an incredibly sad day for all who knew this fine hockey man and person, and it’s a sad day for hockey in general. 

And how great would it have been if those who make Hall of Fame decisions had put this ex-cop in when he could have been there to receive the honour in the flesh.

After all, he was Coach of the Year three times and won a Stanley Cup. Wasn’t that enough?

15 thoughts on “Rest In Peace, Pat Burns”

  1. It’s a sad day indeed Dennis. I imagine there will be a tribute and a moment of silence to honour Pat Burns tommorow night at the Bell Centre. He was so big in so many ways to both the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs, and will be missed by hockey fans everywhere.

  2. Dennis, very well written and touching post to a worthy subject here. I have no doubt Pat shook the Old Forum to its foundations. As for the HHOF snub, it was a sore spot with me when Pat was still around, but this morning it’s absolutely raw and bleeding.

    Danno I hope you’re right about the Bell Centre and the tribute by Habs and Leafs tonight. It’s somehow fitting that these two teams should be squaring off tonight. Pity there’s no Bruins/Devils tilt too.

  3. Very nice tribute Dennis –

    I met him once – and got my t-shirt signed.. He seemed to be a very nice man talking with both the Leafs and Habs fans at the same time. (He was Leafs coach at the time)

    Thank you for writing this article.

  4. Pat Burns was an insperation for all of us, sick or healthy! He showed us that dwelling on the bad times is a waste & to seize & hold dear the good things in life. Rest in peace Pat you are missed greatly by all who love the game of hockey!

  5. Thank you Tyg, a great man is gone. And one thing I didn’t mention is that everyone says he was a really funny guy too. A guy with tons of personality.

  6. Hey Mike, yeah, I think he was really strong through it all,with the chemo and all that. He was a tough dude with many sides to him..

  7. Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Bruce Lee, Chris Farley, Bob Marley, John Lennon. And my drumming idol: Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan
    The list goes on forever. But it just proves my point, people who impacted the world in such a large way, die young.

  8. Phil, I had to look up Jimmy Sullivan. I hadn’t heard of him until now. Anyway, good list and it’s all too bad. And there was Marilyn and James Dean and Janis and Jim Morrison and George Harrison and my mom.

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