Monday is going to be such a special night as an incredible class will be inducted into the HHOF. What will really make it special is that it includes Pat Burns. A lot of anger and disappointment has taken place because of the committee not voting him in before he passed. It's unfortunate and done with, so lets not make this thread about that.
Instead, lets keep it positive. There has been an abundance of amazing articles with stories about Pat. I'll share a whole bunch here, and I expect more to come in the next few days (betting there will be one or two with a Devils angle). 4 NHL coaching stops. 3 Jack Adams Trophy's in his first year with the Canadiens, Leafs, and Bruins. A Stanley Cup with the Devils in his first year in NJ. Pat Burns was one of the greatest ever.
A cop before a coach
Burns was a police officer and spent 16 years on the force in Gatineau, Quebec, taking part in dangerous undercover operations in the biker and drug world.
"When he was an undercover cop, they locked him up in Kingston (Ontario) penitentiary to try and bust the drug rings," longtime general manager Cliff Fletcher, who hired Burns to coach the Maple Leafs, told ESPN.com. "He told me he was so scared, the only person that knew he was in there was the warden. If anyone had ever found out about it, he would have ended up dead. But he helped uncover a huge drug ring in prison.''
Those years as a cop would forge Burns' no-nonsense demeanor as a coach.
"He was stern but fair," said Chris Chelios, who played for Burns in Montreal. "He was a great judge of character. You weren't going to fool him or get anything by him. His cop instincts, here's a guy that went undercover in a biker gang and put his life on the line for that; some of those instincts carried over into hockey.''
"Off the ice, he was a great guy," Gilmour said of Burns. "He liked his beers, he hung with us at times. He loved his Harleys. He loved playing guitar. Just a terrific guy.''
Gilmour laughs at one funny memory.
"We always played jokes in the dressing room," Gilmour said. "We were in Minnesota one day, and we had cups on the top of the door, leaning, so that whoever comes in gets drenched. Well, who walks through but Pat. His hair was always combed neatly, perfectly. His hair was down to his nose after getting drenched. We were shocked, almost. But then we all started howling. He said, 'I'll get you back, whoever did this, I'll get you back.'
"Nobody ever said who did it.''
Fletcher remembers a coach who was tight with his core players, an important factor for those Leafs teams that played with such emotion.
"Pat gravitated towards top players. He was smart," Fletcher said. "Wendel, Dave Ellett, Gilmour, Felix Potvin, they'd go biking with him and everything. They were his boys. But the poor guys at the bottom end of it, they were whipping boys; he squeezed every ounce out of them. But it was good; he had success.''
Like he did in previous stops, Burns got close to his top players in New Jersey. This time, it started with the superstar goalie.
"We used to ride motorcycles together," Brodeur said. "He was there the time I bought my first bike. He said, 'Marty, I'm going to follow you home in my car to make sure you get home safely.'''
Like other players before him, Brodeur also got to experience his sense of humor and his temper flare-ups.
"One day we're in Anaheim for a regular-season game," Brodeur said. "We were sitting in the stands together and talking about everything. The night before we got killed, I think in San Jose or L.A. He was in a great mood as we're talking about different things. But then he says, 'Can you go sit in the room?'
"He gets in the room, and I've never seen a coach break so many things. Throwing sticks, you name it. He was so mad. I was just talking to him two seconds before, and he was fine," Brodeur says, chuckling. "He was in a great mood. But for him, the point of snapping in front of everybody was important. I still laugh at that story.''
I guess a lot of people thought I was a Pat favourite. I hope I was. But if he was unhappy with my play he let me know. There were a few nights when he nailed me to the bench, too. Like, some guys are always going to be a little more creative than others. Pat was fine with that. But he had a rule: In the first two or the last two minutes of a period, never lose the puck at the blue line. I remember this one time I lost the puck at the blue line early in the game, they came down and scored. And I didn’t see the ice again until the next period. He brought me in and said: “How am I going to tell my second- and third- and fourth-line guys that they have to pay the price for stupid mistakes if I treat you differently? You’re the guy they follow.” I understood.
Pat had his own way of doing things. Like at the morning skate on game day, if we weren’t quite going the way he wanted us to, he’d say, “Okay, you guys know what you’re doing, right? You’ve got everybody fooled. You guys think you’re ready, eh? We’ll just see how it goes tonight.” Then of course we’d put pressure on ourselves, go out there and stink out the place in the first period. So he’d come into the dressing room: “I told you so. Now are you going to listen to me?” He was very aware of how he felt we were going to play before the puck even dropped.
Pat did enjoy pulling pranks on players. There was one time in Montreal when he got some fingerprint dust and smeared it all over the headband inside Patrick Roy’s mask at practice. When Roy started sweating, his whole face went blue and stayed that way for three or four days. We were always pulling tricks on each other. I never got tired of putting pin-prick holes in his paper coffee cup. I usually tried to do that before games, when he had his suit on. You know how much care Pat took with the way he looked.
“He had a three-game rule,” Sweeney said. “Veterans got three games where he’ll leave you alone. He won’t berate you and point the finger at you after one, but after two you might hear something. After three, you got the full treatment.
“Then if it was a fourth, you were in the stands.”
Burns could be patient, too. Sweeney missed the end of the 1997-98 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He was back on the ice when training camp began in September, but he wasn't fully recovered yet.
“I was thinking about this with [Dennis] Seidenberg,” Sweeney said of the current defenseman who's back from ACL surgery. “I was participating in training camp coming off shoulder surgery. I was there, but I wasn't where I wanted to be. He came up to me, he said, 'We know you're not going to be 100 percent right away. It might take you 10 games. That's a lot of games, but you think you're ready and you're just not.'
“To me, that spoke volumes of a coach, and maybe the outside perception of Pat was that he wouldn't do that. But he had the certain ability to connect and make me feel better.”
Not that the players didn’t benefit from Burns’ bluntness at times.
“Pat’s personality I think was at times overpowering, but I think that took a lot of pressure off his teams,” said Donato, now the coach at Harvard. “In some ways, and I mean this in the most positive way, he handled some situations like Bill Parcells did. He handled a lot of the pressure in the media, and behind closed doors, even though he was very tough, his players appreciated that.”
Both Ellett and Gill recall that one of the most important aspects of Burns’ coaching was that no matter how badly a player messed up, he was always afforded another opportunity.
“He treated us as professionals,” said Ellett. “He always gave you a chance to redeem yourself. You might be benched for the last half of the game or the third period, but the next game he’d give you a chance right away.”
Burns not only drove his players hard, he encouraged them to do things off the ice together as a team, to care for one another and for the tradition of the Leafs. Gill said you’d leave a one-on-one session with Burns understanding that you didn’t want to do anything to let your teammates down.
Captain Wendel Clark, more than once the target of Burns’ haranguing, said if a player got lambasted, it brought the team together.
“Pat knew whose buttons to push to get the guys to rally,” he recalled. “If someone was getting crapped on, the other guys didn’t have to say anything but they were all going, ‘He doesn’t deserve that, let’s just pull together and win it for him.’ ”
An article from 2004:
Going through some old Pat Burns threads here, I found this Post article after a bad loss and wanted to share it:
This loss was so galling, the coach questioned the very hearts of his Stanley Cup champs.
"I'm going to have to check their hearts, check their heads, see where they're going," Pat Burns said. "Definitely, it's gut-check time."
The Devils coach teed off on his team after they lost their third in five, this time 4-2 to Pitiful Pitt, among the worst teams in the NHL.
"Unmotivated, undisciplined, uninspired," Burns charged. "Was it preparation? I'll take responsiblity. Was it motivation? I'll take responsibility. What goes on on the ice is not my responsibility. I can't play the game for them. They just weren't ready.
"It's not just tonight."
After questioning the fiber of his champions, Burns went back into the locker room to order all of his players to their stalls to face the press. It was an act that displayed his utter disgust, throwing to the scribes the players this organization goes to such lengths to insulate from the media. He asked the press to question the players pointedly, to discover the ailment so he could prescribe the solution. There were no clear insights forthcoming.