Bark louder than bite

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- It was the second practice for Team Canada when Pat Burns was out on the ice barking at the players.

Barking. Like only Pat Burns can bark.

If you weren't sure what it was going to be like with the survivor of four years of cancer treatment joining Ken Hitchcock's team as an associate coach, the answer was pretty much obvious right then and there.

"At the first practice he was barking at us," laughed Hitchock of Burns shouting at himself and his other two coaches, Craig MacTavish and Mike Johnston.

"When a guy has been out of the game for four years, you think you'll sort of ease him in. That lasted one day."

Last night when Canada played a second and final pre-tournament game against Russia here, as was the case two nights earlier against Finland, Burns spent the night in the press box, making trips up and down between periods to the dressing room.

CRUEL PUNISHMENT

Which, if you were around him back at the Canada Cup in 1991 would seem cruel and unusual punishment, as Burns showed a decided fear of heights, walking across a grated walkway to perform the same task for Team Canada at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.

The guy survives cancer and you make him have to conquer his fear of heights?

But Burns, this past year, has been working his way back into the game by scouting games for New Jersey in the press boxes in Florida and the south. That put him in a bunch of press boxes. And he had no problem here.

"The problem with that press box in Hamilton was the grate and that the walkway really moves. I worked up top with Brian Sutter and Tom Webster, who wasn't much better with that walkway than I was, and Sutter always stayed behind us so he could bounce it and make it even worse.

"But I like this. I like going up and down between periods. I'm like Hitch except maybe he's a little more calm. But I can see stuff. I like going down and telling him about the stuff I see."

Hitch said that showed itself in the first game.

"Pat came down and said we need to change this and we need to change that. I trust his opinion. He comes down and says these three things we need to change. Boom. Boom. Boom.

"There's a reason guys win so many games. He has a fire and a passion. It was there after two days.

"He's a fighter. That's obvious today with what he overcame with cancer. He didn't give up. That's why he's still alive and kicking," he said of the former Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils head coach who won the Stanley Cup in 2003.

"It was tough," said Burns. "For three years it was really tough. In the last two years I had two more surgeries, one for the colon and one for the liver. I was beat up pretty good. I had two and a half years of chemo.

"But I've put some of the weight back on, as you can see. And my hair started to grow back again.

"Paul Stewart had been through the colon part and he talked to me and told me I'd feel like this and that I'd feel like that," he said of the former referee who inspired the Hockey Fights Cancer movement. "Lou Lamoriello was great. He kept a job for me in New Jersey. And as time went on, I told him I thought I could do a little bit more. I worked 60 to 70 games this year. Then I got a call from him saying he had just received a call from Hockey Canada saying they wanted me to do this. I asked him what he thought and he said he thought I should do it.

GOES WAY BACK

"I decided I'd take the job. I could put my two cents' worth in and I've known Hitch for so long - more than 20 years - and we're a lot alike. I just bark a little louder than he does. I thought I could be another mind who thinks like him.

"I'm really enjoying it so far, but I don't want people to get the wrong idea. I'm not doing this to promote Pat Burns.

"I guess the thought of coaching again is always there. Some days you think 'I could do this again.' But that's not why I'm doing this. Don't start any rumours. That's what I don't want."

For the time being, doing what he's doing with Team Canada is triumph enough.


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