There is no doubt that Pat Burns is dying, but he is not forgotten.
After an erroneous report that the former Leafs, Canadiens, Devils and Bruins coach had been taken by cancer, Burns called media outlets to report he was very much alive.
Most people believed the original report. Former Leafs great Doug Gilmour, a guest coach at the Leafs training camp on Sunday, was not among them.
“Burnsie and I have spoken and I guess there was a really unfortunate situation here,” Gilmour said.
“I was driving back here and radio stations were calling. I wasn’t going to comment. I was speaking with a friend back home who was speaking with Burnsie the night before where he was at the hospital and he was getting some medication. He (Burns) snuck out of there and went for sushi.”
“We’re praying and hoping the best for him. He’s just a superb man and obviously you see the character that he has and the fight he still has.”
Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004. He survived liver cancer in 2005 but the latest affliction, lung cancer, seems destined to take him. Several months ago, he suspended intrusive treatment for his cancer and he has returned to his home province of Quebec to be with his family.
Gilmour, the linchpin of two third-round appearances under Burns, noted the obvious: with life eventually comes death. He pointed to a bestselling book that told the story of a mentor and his writer pupil.
“I think if you have read Tuesdays with Morrie
(you would understand). He has an opportunity to be around his family and his friends. We really don’t like talking about it, but I think everybody would love to have the chance to say goodbye before you go. We all love him.”
Gilmour remembered the air of intimidation Burns wore like a sports jacket.
“There were a lot of great memories that came especially with Pat. One of the funniest ones was his first day here. He asked about the hockey club and he said ‘yes’ we have Darryl Gilmour.’ I was like ‘thanks, that’s a good start.’ It was a great friendship. He was an intimidating man. He just looked at me and I got scared.
“He got the best out of all of us as players.”