The NHL Hall of Fame Selection Committee finally got something right. The sad part is that it came years after it should have.
Recently, former Devils coach Pat Burns was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on Nov 17, 2014. Burns had reached Hall of Fame eligibility in 2007 but had been passed over every year until now. Sadly Pat Burns lost his battle with cancer back in 2010 so he’s not around to be a part of this celebration.
The Cancer thing was a sad story in the Burns biography, something that would ultimately take him from the earth but having cancer wasn’t why the majority of people out there felt he should have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Burns is the only coach in NHL history to win the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year three times. He won it in 1989 with the Montreal Canadiens, 1993 with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 1998 with the Boston Bruins. He didn’t win the award with the Devils in 2003 but instead helped guide the Devils to their 3rd Stanley Cup that season.
The route he took from being a policeman to a Stanley Cup winning coach is nothing but inspirational. He proved that you don’t necessarily have to grow up and play in the NHL to succeed in the NHL as a coach.
I think my favorite Pat Burns story comes from that run in 2003. Jeff Friesen had made an ugly mistake that led to the Senators tying Game 7 in the 3rd period. As Burns said in an interview after the game, ”When he came to the bench, I thought he was pondering suicide,” Devils Coach Pat Burns said of Friesen. ”I said, ‘Just relax, you owe me one.’ ” Friesen would go on to put home the game winner with just minutes remaining, sending the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. In an interview later on, Friesen talked about the incident and said that he knew he messed up and expected the worst when he got back to the bench but the reaction from Burns just made you want to get back out there and get it back. That was the type of coach he was, he made guys want to be better and did so in a way that was strict but not unfair.
I just wish he was around to see this…