So, there’s a movement on Facebook to have former NHL coach Pat Burns, about to turn 58 and who is gravely ill with lung cancer, fast-tracked into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
When informed of this, my better half said, “That’s disgusting.”
How, exactly is that “disgusting?”
Clearly, what she meant is that it shouldn’t take a life-threatening illness to kick-start a HHOF induction campaign. Sometimes it does.
Burns coached fourteen seasons in the NHL – from 1988 through 2004. He won 501 games and coached over 1,000 for Les Canadiens, the Maple Leafs, the Bruins and the Devils. It was with New Jersey, in 2003, that he won his only Stanley Cup ring. Based on his ability to coach, that Cup was long overdue.
Burns is also the only NHL head coach to win the Jack Adams Award three times with three different teams. His bench style was loud, aggressive, passionate – and winning. His work with the Maple Leafs, in the early 1990s, gave Blue and White fans the only genuine excitement they’ve seen since 1967. In 1993, Burns’ Leafs reached the Conference Final against Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings. One year later, they again reached the penultimate series. This time against Pat Quinn’s Vancouver Canucks. The Leafs lost both those Conference Finals – but they only got there because of the passion Burns brought to the bench.
The Pat Burns HHOF movement is not entirely unprecidented. In 2002, as cancer was taking his life, the Ottawa Senators allowed Roger Neilson to coach two games behind their bench. It allowed Roger to reach the 1,000-game mark. Neilson died five days after his 69th birthday in June 2003.
If you’ve seen Pat Burns lately, he’s a mere shadow of his former bombastic self. His career numbers clearly indicate that a HHOF induction is warranted. Doesn’t it make sense to have that induction while Pat could still appreciate it? Of course it does.
The movement isn’t trying to get Burns into the Hall because he is sick…they are trying to expedite it because he is sick. And that’s exactly what should be done.