MONTREAL – Pat Burns has finally been immortalized among hockey's greats.
A three-time Jack Adams Award winner, a Stanley Cup Champion, and with more than 500 games under his belt over the course of a long and successful NHL coaching career, the call to the Hall came posthumously for Burns.
Almost four years to the day after losing his courageous battle to cancer, the fiery head coach was finally inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category during a ceremony in Toronto on Monday, becoming the 56th member of the Canadiens organization to receive the prestigious honor.
|Doug Gilmour presents Pat's wife, Line Gignac, and son, Jason, with the Hockey Hall of Fame plaque marking Pat's induction. |
“To him, just to be a potential Hall of Fame inductee was a great honor. On behalf of the Burns family, I would like to thank the board and the Hall of Fame for my dad’s induction,” offered Pat’s son, Jason. “I remember him telling me: ‘Cheer up Jason, you better look good and have a good speech ready because you’re the one who’ll have to go up for me.’
“Being Pat’s son was a little bit like a roller coaster ride with its highs and lows,” continued Burns. “But, right now it feels like reaching the top of the mountain now that the doors of the Hockey Hall of Fame have been opened up for him.”
A native of Montreal's Saint-Henri neighborhood, Burns spent three seasons in the QMJHL as head coach of the Hull Olympiques before making the jump to the pros in 1987-88. Following a single season at the helm of the Habs' minor league affiliate in Sherbrooke, Burns succeeded Jean Perron as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens during the summer of 1988, and it didn't take long for his presence to be felt with the big club.
Leading his team to a 53-win, 115-point season to finish second in the league during his first year in Montreal, Burns and the Canadiens would make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before ultimately falling to the Calgary Flames in six games. Despite coming up just short in the Final, Burns' incredible work behind the bench earned him the Jack Adams Award shortly thereafter as the NHL's coach of the year.
"You’ll all agree with me that Pat was his own creation. So unique, so passionate, so intense. He was larger than life. What a character," said the former Canadiens bench boss' wife, Line Gignac. "Nobody gets into the Hall of Fame without hard work. Pat had two goals, winning and making a difference. This honor is our way of showing him how much he meant to us."
Despite successful runs over the seasons that followed, his debut NHL campaign would nevertheless mark the closest Burns would come to hoisting the Cup in Montreal, bowing out from the second round of the playoffs in each of the next three seasons.
Compiling a 174-104-42 record over 320 games with the Habs, Burns would leave Montreal at the end of the 1991-92 season as the fifth-winningest coach in franchise history, notably leading the club to a pair of division championships and one Cup Final.
With stops in Toronto and Boston next, Burns would win two more Jack Adams trophies in both 1992-93 and 1997-98, making him, to this date, the only head coach in NHL history to earn the honor on three separate occasions.
Despite his well-adorned trophy shelf, one important piece of hardware was still missing from Burns' collection. It was in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils that Burns finally won the lone Stanley Cup of his career, coaching the Devils for one more season before leaving the game due to illness. His 501 wins over 14 seasons place him 17th on the NHL's list of all-time winningest coaches.
Although Burns wasn't able to enjoy the honor on Monday with those closest to him, his presence was nevertheless felt by all those in attendance, as the former policeman and legendary bench boss finally saw his name enshrined in the Pantheon of hockey.
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
Pat Burns - Career in images
Induction Speech - Line Gignac and Jason Burns