Pat Burns, one of the most successful NHL coaches of the past 20 years, died Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 58.
During his 14-year NHL coaching career, Burns posted a 501-353-151-14 record in 1,019 games behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.
Burns won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003, and is the only person in league history to win three Jack Adams Trophies, awarded to the NHL's coach of the year.
A former police officer from Gatineau, Que., known for his passion and fieriness, Burns took over as coach of the Habs in 1988 after serving as the bench boss of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Hull Olympiques and the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the American Hockey League.
Within a year of his arrival, Montreal was playing in the Stanley Cup final, and even though the Habs lost to the Calgary Flames in six games, Burns's star was on the rise as he won the Jack Adams Trophy at the end of the season.
His next port of call was Toronto, where he made an immediate impact, guiding the Maple Leafs to the 1993 conference finals and winning another Jack Adams Trophy in his first campaign with the club.
Burns and the Leafs made the Conference finals the next year, but he was fired during the 1995-96 season.
Burns wasn't out of work for long, as he landed the head-coaching job with the Bruins, and won an unprecedented third Jack Adams Trophy in 1998. Success in Boston was fleeting — the Bruins bowed out of the playoffs in each of his first two seasons with the club, and they didn't even manage to qualify for the playoffs in 2000.
A poor start to the 2000-01 campaign resulted in his being fired after only eight games, but Burns had the last laugh as coach of New Jersey, guiding the Devils past the Bruins in the first round of the 2003 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Burns was on top of the hockey world, but his career took a life-altering direction following the 2003-04 season when he was forced to step down as coach of the Devils after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
He survived the colon cancer but was diagnosed with liver cancer the following year. Once again, he beat it and everything appeared to be back to normal in his life.
But in 2009, Burns revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer for a third time, this time lung cancer.
During the last years of his life, Burns lived in Florida, where he attended NHL games in Tampa Bay as a consultant for the Devils. He credited his wife Lynne for helping him win his cancer battles, and always stressed that he didn't want hockey fans to pity him.
“I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me. I've had a great life, I've had an enjoyable life, I've had some fun,” Burns told Scott Morrison of Hockey Night in Canada in 2009.
“I've been lucky to be part of one of the greatest sports around [and] the National Hockey League.”