Pat Burns

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Pat Burns
Hockey Hall of Fame, 2014 (Builder)
Born (1952-04-04)April 4, 1952
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died November 19, 2010(2010-11-19) (aged 58)
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
Coached for Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
New Jersey Devils

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.

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

Professional career[edit]

a glass display case
A plaque (now in the Hockey Hall of Fame) presented to Burns by the Canadiens to commemorate his first career NHL win

As a child, Burns had always wanted to play on an NHL team, and win the Stanley Cup. Realizing 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 became an assistant coach with Hull in 1984, and worked his way through the ranks, becoming 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 coached future Hockey Hall of Fame member Luc Robitaille. Before the start of the 1987–88 NHL season, Montreal Canadiens general manager Serge Savard offered Burns the head coach position for the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the American Hockey League. Burns held the position for one year before being promoted to head coach of Montreal.

In Burns first year as an NHL coach, the Canadiens finished the 1988–89 NHL season with a division-winning 53-18-9, ultimately losing the Stanley Cup finals in six games to the Calgary Flames. Burns won the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year, his first of three wins.[4] A defensive-minded coach,[5] Burns 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 where they were swept by the Boston Bruins, citing his frustration with the media.[6]

Following his departure from Montreal, Burns was hired as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had 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."[7] He led 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 followed that performance with another trip to the conference finals in 1994, losing in five to the Vancouver Canucks. The Leafs again made the playoffs in 1995, but following a disappointing losing streak during the 1996 season, Burns was let go.

Burns took a year off from hockey before being hired to coach the Boston Bruins in 1997. He won the Jack Adams 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 continued to have success until the 1999-2000 season, when they missed the playoffs, the first time in Burns's career where his team missed the playoffs.[8] Burns was fired eight games into the 2000-01 season, following a disappointing 3-4-1 record.

Burns finished his head coaching career with the New Jersey Devils, leading them to the Stanley Cup in 2003 while winning over 40 games in both seasons as coach of the team. He resigned in 2005 in an effort to focus on his health and treatment following a cancer diagnosis in 2004,[9] though he remained with the organisation as a special assignment coach.[10]

Personal life[edit]

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.[11]

Burns survived colon cancer in 2004 and liver cancer in 2005,[12] 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.[13] 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."[14]

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's health had suddenly deteriorated and that he had returned to his home in Magog, Quebec, to be with his family.[15] Reports surfaced the following day that Burns had died that morning, but Burns's son denied news reports that his father had died. That same day, an online report by the Toronto Sun also incorrectly reported Burns's 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.[4][18][19]

Shortly after his funeral, thieves broke into Burns's 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.[20] Some of the items were later recovered.[21] 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.


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.[22][23]

Burns is the only coach in history to win the Jack Adams Award three separate times, with all three of his wins came in his introductory season with that respective NHL team. He led two teams to the Stanley Cup Finals in inaugural seasons with two teams, losing in 1989 and winning in 2003. He coached four total teams and led each to the playoffs at least twice.

In 2011, an arena bearing Burns's name was built at Stanstead College, a private boarding school in the Eastern Townships.[24]

On March 26, 2010, a Facebook group was launched by three Canadian hockey fans[25] calling for Burns to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before he succumbed to cancer. The "Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame – NOW!" group attracted over 39,000 members in its first week.[26] In its second week the group's membership had grown to over 54,000, and surpassed 80,000 at its conclusion. Burns was not selected for the 2010 class of inductees, and was posthumously announced as an inductee on June 23, 2014.[27]

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Postseason
G W L T OTL Pts Finish Result
MTL 1988–89 80 53 18 9 115 1st in Adams Lost in Stanley Cup Finals (CGY)
MTL 1989–90 80 41 28 11 93 3rd in Adams Lost in Division finals (BOS)
MTL 1990–91 80 39 30 11 89 2nd in Adams Lost in Division finals (BOS)
MTL 1991–92 80 41 28 11 93 1st in Adams Lost in Division finals (BOS)
TOR 1992–93 84 44 29 11 99 3rd in Norris Lost in Conference finals (LAK)
TOR 1993–94 84 43 29 12 98 2nd in Central Lost in Conference finals (VAN)
TOR 1994–95 48 21 19 8 50 4th in Central Lost in Conference quarterfinals (CHI)
TOR 1995–96 65 25 30 10 (60) (fired)
BOS 1997–98 82 39 30 13 91 2nd in Northeast Lost in Conference quarterfinals (WAS)
BOS 1998–99 82 39 30 13 91 3rd in Northeast Lost in Conference semifinals (BUF)
BOS 1999–2000 82 24 33 19 6 73 5th in Northeast Did not qualify
BOS 2000–01 8 3 4 1 0 (7) (fired)
NJD 2002–03 82 46 20 10 6 108 1st in Atlantic Won Stanley Cup (ANA)
NJD 2003–04 82 43 25 12 2 100 2nd in Atlantic Lost in Conference quarterfinals (PHI)
Total 1,019 501 353 151 14     1 Stanley Cup
11 playoff appearances

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DiManno, Rosie (2013). Coach : the Pat Burns story (Anchor Canada ed.). Toronto. ISBN 978-0385676380.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ "Pat Burns among six named in Hockey Hall of Fame 2014 induction class". The Globe and Mail. June 23, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "FROM COP TO COACH: HOW GATINEAU SHAPED PAT BURNS". Rogers SportsNet. October 25, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Pat Burns, Stanley Cup winner, dies at 58". NHL. November 20, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  5. ^ Dixon, Ryan. "Celebrating the '93 Montreal Canadiens and Canada's last Cup". Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  6. ^ "Former Leafs coach Pat Burns dies at 58". CTV. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "Pat Burns, Builder Category". Hockey Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  8. ^ "Former NHL coach Pat Burns dies". CBC. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  9. ^ Shoalts, David (November 19, 2010). "A cop, a coach, that's all Pat Burns was". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  10. ^ "New Jersey Devils: Coaching Staff (Pat Burns, Special Assignment Coach)". New Jersey Devils. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  11. ^ "Pat Burns, hockey coaching legend, dead at 58". The Globe and Mail. November 19, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  12. ^ "Former NHL Coach Pat Burns Has Lung Cancer". January 23, 2009. Archived from the original on January 25, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  13. ^ Chere, Rich (September 23, 2009). "Burns keeps on fighting". Newark Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on December 1, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  14. ^ DiManno, Rosie (April 9, 2010). "DiManno: Former Leafs coach Pat Burns admits end is near". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  15. ^ a b "Pat Burns: I'm not dead". Toronto Sun. Sun. September 17, 2010. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  16. ^ "Burns refutes reports to TSN that he has passed away". September 17, 2010. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  17. ^ Canadian Press (September 17, 2010), "Pat Burns: "Ils tentent de m'achever avant mon décès"", Cyberpresse (in Canadian French), retrieved September 17, 2010
  18. ^ "Former NHL coach Pat Burns dead of cancer at the age of 58". The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated. November 19, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  19. ^ "Pat Burns s'éteint à l'âge de 58 ans" (in Canadian French). RDS. November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  20. ^ "Pat Burns' car looted after funeral". The Hamilton Spectator. November 30, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  21. ^ "Stolen jerseys returned to Burns family". Toronto Sun. December 16, 2010. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  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. ^ John, Perenack (April 9, 2010). "Oakville Beaver" (PDF). Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  26. ^ Hornby, Lance (March 30, 2010). "Fans hot for Burns". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  27. ^ "LATE COACH BURNS HEADLINES HOCKEY HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2014". Canada: TSN. June 24, 2014. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2024.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Winner of the Jack Adams Award
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Preceded by Winner of the Jack Adams Award
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Preceded by Winner of the Jack Adams Award
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Sporting positions
Preceded by Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
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Preceded by Head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs
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Preceded by Head coach of the Boston Bruins
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Preceded by Head coach of the New Jersey Devils
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