First Cup thrills Burns
The New Jersey Devils waited almost nine months to see their coach, Pat Burns, show the world his soft side.
On June 9, after a dramatic 3-0 victory against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in a winner-take-all Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey players finally got their wish.
As the team celebrated its third Stanley Cup victory in nine years on the Continental Airlines Arena ice surface -- before a raucous crowd -- Burns walked to the blue line, received the Cup from defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, turned to the end-zone crowd, lifted the precious chalice over his head and planted a big, fat kiss on it.
At that moment in time it was impossible to wipe the smile from Burns' face as he basked in the moment he dreamed about throughout his often difficult coaching career. It was that smile, so often absent from his face throughout the long grueling march to the pinnacle of the sport, that brought joy to the players who played so valiantly for him from October onward.
"Well, Pat, as everybody knows, doesn't smile a whole lot," said Ken Daneyko, a surprise addition by Burns to the Game 7 lineup. "He just kept the pedal to the metal all season long and didn't get complacent. That's what was probably missing from this team the last few years."
For his part, Burns said the emotion of finally holding the Cup after 144 games of Playoff hockey for four teams -- the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins and now the Devils -- had yet to set in.
"Not a whole lot (was going through my mind)," said Burns. "I was just glad to look at my family and see my family up there. My son, Jason, and my daughter, Maureen, came in from Montreal today. They drove all the way down. My wife was there and friends and family from Quebec were there.
Burns, who has won the Jack Adams Trophy -- as the League's best coach -- with his three previous employers, only to be unceremoniously dumped by each when things turned sour, finally found his personal redemption upon completion of the Stanley Cup Finals.
And, his fingerprints were all over the Devils' title. He made the tough moves when they had to be made throughout the season.
He benched Daneyko, a veteran of every Playoff game in New Jersey history before this postseason. Then, he re-inserted him into the lineup at the ultimate do-or-die moment. He also put the unproven Mike Rupp into the lineup starting in Game 4 of the Finals, looking for a spark from a player that had never tasted postseason hockey at the NHL level. Rupp responded with an assist in his first game and a three-point night, including the game-winning goal, in Game 7 of the Finals.
Most importantly, he kept his team together after a disastrous loss in Game 6, a 5-2 defeat to Anaheim that had memories of the Devils' collapse against Colorado in the 2001 Finals ringing in the ears of most of his veteran players.
Those moves, and their success, are how Burns measures himself, not in the opinions of the media or the criticisms of those hockey people outside of his organization.