Burns' fight with cancer finally ends

Pat Burns smiles in 1998 with the Jack Adams award he won as NHL Coach of the Year. (Ken Kerr/QMI...

Pat Burns smiles in 1998 with the Jack Adams award he won as NHL Coach of the Year. (Ken Kerr/QMI AGENCY)

MATHIEU BOULAY and PAUL RIVARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

Pat Burns, the fiery cop-turned-NHL-coach who led three of the Original Six teams and also won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils, has died after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 58.

A coaching icon, Burns' career spanned 14 seasons and 1,019 games, from 1988 to 2004. He won a Stanley Cup and earned a record three coach of the year awards - a record he still holds.

Fans will remember the Montreal native as a tough coach, ready to take on any rival who stepped on his toes; his infamous cuss-infused temper tantrums sometimes being featured in top-10 lists of coaching outbursts.

But he was an accomplished coach with a reputation for instilling a strong defensive game.

Burns didn't begin his career as a hockey player, but as a cop in Gatineau, Que., coaching the game on the side.

Then in 1984, his talent landed him a full-time job with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team, the Hull Olympiques.

In two years, he guided the team to a championship win and a Memorial Cup final.

His work soon caught the eye of professional teams and Burns was hired by the Montreal Canadiens organization to manage their AHL team, the Sherbrooke Canadiens, for the 1987-88 season.

In 1988, he was promoted, replacing Habs coach Jean Perron.

Burns had a quick impact on the team.

The Canadiens won the Adams Division title that season with 115 points, heading to the Stanley Cup final before losing to the Calgary Flames. That year, Burns won his first Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

In 1992, after a four-year tenure with the Canadiens, he left for the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

It was there he earned his second coaching trophy, in 1993, staying with the team until 1996.

Fired by the Leafs, he became coach of the Boston Bruins, for whom he won his third coaching award. He was fired during his fourth season with the Bruins.

Burns then took a two-year break, returning behind the bench of the New Jersey Devils. In 2003, he helped the team to a Stanley Cup win.

Soon after, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and in 2005 a new cancer attacked his liver. In 2009, he was again diagnosed with the disease, this time terminal lung cancer.

It was following this third diagnosis he decided to forgo further treatment.

Burns was down, but not out.

He continued scouting for the Devils and regularly commented on hockey for a popular Montreal sports radio station, sprinkling his opinions with an inimitable humour that won over listeners.

On March 26, 2010, he made his last public appearance, when the Quebec town of Stanstead, near the U.S. border, announced it was building an arena bearing his name.

Greeted with a standing ovation, he called the honour one of the highest points of his career.

"I probably won't see the project to the end," Burns said at the time. "But let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky."


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