Pat Burns

Patrick John Joseph Burns[1] (April 4, 1952 – November 19, 2010) was a National Hockey League head coach. Over 14 seasons between 1988 and 2004, he coached in 1,019 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils. Burns retired in 2005 after being diagnosed with recurring cancer, which eventually claimed his life five years later.

Pat Burns
Hockey Hall of Fame, 2014 (Builder)
Born(1952-04-04)April 4, 1952
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedNovember 19, 2010(2010-11-19) (aged 58)
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
Team(s)Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
New Jersey Devils
Stanley Cup wins2003
Years as an NHL coach1988–2004

In 2014, he was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.[2]

Professional career

As a child, Burns had always wanted to play on a NHL team, and win the Stanley Cup. Once he realized he didn't possess the skill set to make it professionally, Burns became a police officer. He had also worked part-time as a scout for the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL.[3] He would later take on the role as assistant coach in 1984. He eventually worked his way through the ranks, and would become the team's head coach, after owner Wayne Gretzky and general manager Charles Henry decided he'd be the best fit.[3] During his time with the Olympiques, he would coach future Hockey Hall of Fame member Luc Robitaille. Before the start of the 1987-88 NHL season, Canadiens GM Serge Savard approached Burns and offered him the head coach position for the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the American Hockey League. He held the position for one year before being offered a new job, head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens would finish the season with a division winning 53-18-9, and would make it to the Stanley Cup finals, losing in six games to the Calgary Flames. Burns would win the Jack Adams Award for best coach of the year, as a rookie. It was his first of three wins.[4] He would lead Montreal to the second round of the playoffs in every year as head coach, before making a shocking resignation at the end of the 1992 season, citing his frustration with the media.[5]

Following his departure from Montreal, Burns was hired as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has also received an offer from the Los Angeles Kings, but he cited the Leafs' history as a factor in his decision, and added "I find myself fortunate to coach two of the greatest franchises in NHL history."[6] He would lead Toronto in their best playoff run since 1967, making it to the conference finals, losing in seven games to the Kings. At the NHL Awards, Burns won his second Jack Adams trophy. He would follow that performance with another trip to the conference finals in 1994, losing in five to the Vancouver Canucks. The Leafs would again make the playoffs in 1995, but following a disappointing losing streak during the 1996 season, Burns was let go.

Burns would take a year off from hockey before being hired to coach the Boston Bruins in 1997. He won the Jack Adams for a third time at the end of the season, making him the only coach in history to win the award three separate times. All three of his wins came in his introductory season with the team. The Bruins would continue to have success until the 1999-2000 season, where they missed the playoffs. This marked the first time in Burns' career where his team missed the playoffs.[7] Burns was fired eight games into the 2000-01 season, following a disappointing 3-4-1 record.

Burns would finish his head coaching career with the New Jersey Devils, leading them to a Stanley Cup in 2003 while winning over 40 games in both seasons as coach of the team. He would resign in 2005 in an effort to focus on his health and treatment following a cancer diagnosis in 2004,[8] though he would remain with the organisation as a special assignment coach.[9]

Personal life

Burns was born in Montreal to Geralda "Louise" Girardeau and Alfred Burns. Pat was the youngest of 6 children, he has 4 older sisters and 1 older brother (Violet, Alfred "Sonny", Lillian, Phyllis and Diane).

The Burns family moved to Gatineau, Quebec, following the death of Alfred in an industrial incident, when Pat was 4 years old.[3]

Before his career in hockey, he was a police officer in Gatineau. Burns originally studied to be a welder, but became a police officer after hearing they were in need for positions. Burns had lied about his age to get the job, stating he was 18 when in actuality, he was 17.[3] He would hold the position for sixteen years.[10]

Burns survived colon cancer in 2004 and liver cancer in 2005,[11] retiring from coaching after the second diagnosis. In 2009 Burns announced that his colon cancer had returned and metastasized to his lungs, was thus inoperable, and therefore he decided to forgo further treatment.[12] During an April 2010 interview Burns stated "I know my life is nearing its end and I accept that." Gesturing to a group of local minor hockey players, he said: "A young player could come from Stanstead who plays in an arena named after me. I probably won't see the project to the end, but let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux."[13]

He was married to Line Burns. He had two children, a son from a long-term relationship and a daughter from a previous marriage.

He was the cousin of Robin Burns.


It was reported on September 16, 2010, that Burns' health had suddenly deteriorated and that he had returned to his home in Magog, Quebec, to be with his family.[14] Reports surfaced the following day that Burns had died that morning, but Burns' son denied news reports that his father had died. That same day, an online report by the Toronto Sun also incorrectly reported Burns' death, but was quickly revealed to be erroneous.[15] Burns himself talked to both English and French media about the incident, denying that he had died and asked that his status be clarified immediately.[16][17]

He died on November 19, 2010, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, at the Maison Aube-Lumière, of colon cancer, which had eventually spread to his lungs.[18][19][20]

Shortly after his funeral, thieves broke into Burns' widow's car, stealing personal belongings, credit cards and numerous pieces of hockey memorabilia, including 30 autographed NHL jerseys that were to be auctioned for charity.[21] Some of the items were later recovered.[22] One day after his death, prior to a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens (two of the teams he coached) at the Bell Centre, there was a special tribute video highlighting the great moments of his coaching career, followed by a moment of silence.


Ever since his retirement, Burns has been frequently mentioned as one of the best coaches in the history of the National Hockey League, often appearing in lists and discussions between fans and sports websites.[23][24]

In 2011, an arena bearing Burns' name was built at Stanstead College, a private boarding school in the Eastern Townships.[25]

On March 26, 2010, a fan-based Facebook campaign was launched to get Burns inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on the merits of his coaching record, but before he succumbed to cancer. The Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame – NOW! Facebook group attracted over 39,000 members in its first week and received across Canada and the United States.[26] In its second week the number of hockey fans calling for Burns' induction grew to over 54,000. As of October 22, 2010, that number was at 71,307. Nevertheless, the attempts to get Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame did not succeed as he was not selected for the 2010 class of inductees. On June 23, 2014, Burns was announced as one of the inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2014.[27]

Coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPost-season
Montreal Canadiens1988–89 80531891151st in AdamsLost in Stanley Cup Finals
Montreal Canadiens1989–90 80412811933rd in AdamsLost in Conference Semifinals
Montreal Canadiens1990–91 80393011892nd in AdamsLost in Conference Semifinals
Montreal Canadiens1991–92 80412811931st in AdamsLost in Conference Semifinals
Toronto Maple Leafs1992–93 84442911993rd in NorrisLost in Conference Finals
Toronto Maple Leafs1993–94 84432912982nd in CentralLost in Conference Finals
Toronto Maple Leafs1994–95 4821198504th in CentralLost in Conference Quarterfinals
Toronto Maple Leafs1995–96 65253010(80)(fired)
Boston Bruins1997–98 82393013912nd in NortheastLost in Conference Quarterfinals
Boston Bruins1998–99 82393013913rd in NortheastLost in Conference Semifinals
Boston Bruins1999–2000 822433196735th in NortheastDid not qualify
Boston Bruins2000–01 83410(88)(fired)
New Jersey Devils2002–03 8246201061081st in AtlanticWon Stanley Cup Finals
New Jersey Devils2003–04 8243251221002nd in AtlanticLost in Conference Quarterfinals
Total 10195013531511412681 Stanley Cup, 11 playoff appearances

See also


  1. "Pat Burns among six named in Hockey Hall of Fame 2014 induction class". The Globe and Mail. June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  2. "FROM COP TO COACH: HOW GATINEAU SHAPED PAT BURNS". Rogers SportsNet. October 25, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  3. "Pat Burns, Stanley Cup winner, dies at 58". NHL. November 20, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  4. "Former Leafs coach Pat Burns dies at 58". CTV. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  5. "Pat Burns, Builder Category". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  6. "Former NHL coach Pat Burns dies". CBC. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  7. "A cop, a coach, that's all Pat Burns was". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  8. New Jersey Devils: Coaching Staff (Pat Burns, Special Assignment Coach)
  9. "Pat Burns, hockey coaching legend, dead at 58". The Globe and Mail. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  10. Former NHL Coach Pat Burns Has Lung Cancer, January 23, 2009
  11. Chere, Rich (September 23, 2009). "Burns keeps on fighting". Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  12. DiManno, Rosie (April 9, 2010). "DiManno: Former Leafs coach Pat Burns admits end is near". The Star. Toronto.
  13. QMI Agency (September 16, 2010). "Pat Burns' health worsens: reports". Toronto Sun.
  16. Canadian Press (September 17, 2010), "Pat Burns: "Ils tentent de m'achever avant mon décès"", Cyberpresse (in French), retrieved September 17, 2010
  19. "Pat Burns s'éteint à l'âge de 58 ans" (in French). RDS. November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  20. The Spec (November 30, 2010), Pat Burns' car looted after funeral
  21. "Stolen jerseys returned to Burns family". Toronto Sun. December 16, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  22. "Top 15 NHL Coaches of All Time". Canada: TheSportster. September 9, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  23. "10 Best NHL Coaches of the Past 20 Years". Bleacher Report. February 12, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  24. "Pat Burns honoured with Quebec hockey arena". Canada: CBC. March 26, 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  25. media coverage
  26. "LATE COACH BURNS HEADLINES HOCKEY HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2014". Canada: TSN. June 24, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
Preceded by
Jacques Demers
Winner of the Jack Adams Award
Succeeded by
Bob Murdoch
Preceded by
Pat Quinn
Winner of the Jack Adams Award
Succeeded by
Jacques Lemaire
Preceded by
Ted Nolan
Winner of the Jack Adams Award
Succeeded by
Jacques Martin
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Jean Perron
Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
Succeeded by
Jacques Demers
Preceded by
Tom Watt
Head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Succeeded by
Nick Beverley
Preceded by
Steve Kasper
Head coach of the Boston Bruins
Succeeded by
Mike Keenan
Preceded by
Kevin Constantine
Head coach of the New Jersey Devils
Succeeded by
Larry Robinson
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