|Pat Burns was reportedly taken to hospital just outside Tampa with pneumonia last Sunday. (QMI Agency/Claude Croisetiere)
Pat Burns never walked away from a good fight.
In his other life as a cop in Hull, Que., the three-time NHL coach of the year had his share of scraps.
So it’s no surprise he’s giving the terminal lung cancer that has ravaged his body a good rumble.
Burns was discharged from a hospital in Florida Thursday, reported Montreal radio station CKAC – for which he did commentary – and is taking antibiotics for a bout with pneumonia. He was admitted Sunday, the day of his 58th birthday, with a high fever.
“I heard a report he’s at death’s door,” cousin Robin Burns told The Canadian Press. “I don’t think so.
“He’s a tough Irishman. He’s not ready to go yet.”
Burns’ latest battle with cancer is his third. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, a year after winning the Stanley Cup behind the bench of the New Jersey Devils. He lost half his liver to the disease a couple years later and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008.
He opted not to undergo chemotherapy treatments for the lung cancer.
The ravages of the disease were evident a couple of weeks ago when a frail-looking Burns made the journey northward from his home near Tampa – where, until recently, he had continued to do some part-time scouting for the Devils – for a ceremony to name a rink in his honour in Stanstead, Que.
The trip apparently was a strain for him.
“He was having some trouble breathing and talking,” said a friend of the family. “But he’s been in and out of the hospital before.”
While in Stanstead for the rink-naming ceremony for the under-construction arena that will bear his name, Burns didn’t mince words about his prospects.
That was typical of the straight-talking coach, who earned the respect of his players for his no-guff approach to things.
“I know my life is nearing its end and I accept that,” he said. “As for my career, I always said to my kids, ‘You don’t cry because it’s over, you’re happy because it happened.’ That’s the main thing. I’m very happy that it happened.”
Burns won coach of the year honours with the Montreal Canadiens (1989), the Toronto Maple Leafs (1993) and the Boston Bruins (1998) and owns a 501-350-175 career record.
Those numbers are worthy of selection for the Hockey Hall of Fame and a group of fans have started a Facebook campaign to appeal to the Hall’s selection committee to induct Burns this year. More than 52,000 fans had joined the group as of Thursday afternoon.
Supporters can join the campaign at patburns.ca.
Fans interested in sending a message to Burns can do so at arenapatburns.com.