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Pat Burns, Stanley Cup winner, dies at 58

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Pat Burns, the long-time NHL coach who won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils seven years ago, lost his battle with cancer Friday at Maison Aube-Lumiere in Sherbrooke, Que.  

Burns, who had turned 58 in April, had already beaten colon and liver cancer, but when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 he originally refused treatment -- then decided to go with chemotherapy to try to extend his life.

"On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns," said Lou Lamoriello, Devils' President/CEO/General Manager. "Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns' family."

Burns served as the Devils' coach from June 13, 2002 to July 8, 2005 before stepping down due to personal reasons. More recently, he served as a special assignment scout with the organization.

"Just as they will remember Pat for his success as a coach, hockey fans also will remember his humor, his honesty, his humanity and his courage," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "As it mourns the loss of an outstanding contributor to the game, the National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to Pat's family and friends."

He became just the 11th individual in NHL history to reach the 1,000 games-coached mark on Feb. 27, 2004, and the ninth to reach the 500-win plateau on March 30, 2004. Burns won the Stanley Cup in 2003 with the Devils.

A former police officer in Gatineau, Que.,  Burns coached 14 seasons in the NHL from 1988-2004 and compiled a 501-350-161-14 record in 1,019 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and the Devils. He missed the playoffs only once, in 1999-2000 with the Bruins. He had a record of 78-71 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Burns won the Jack Adams Award three times, including as a rookie coach in 1989 with Montreal. He also won it in 1993 with Toronto, when he guided the Maple Leafs to the Campbell Conference Final before eventually falling in seven games to Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. Burns last won the Award in 1998 with Boston.

"On behalf of the Jacobs family and the entire Boston Bruins family, I would like to express our deep sorrow on the passing of Pat Burns," Bruins President Cam Neely said. "Pat was a great coach and more importantly a wonderful man.  The Bruins are honored to have him as a part of our history. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burns family."

Burns began his coaching career with the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1983 and coached there for four seasons before taking over the AHL Sherbrooke Canadiens in 1987. The Canadiens brought him to Montreal the following season, and he won the Jack Adams Award for the first time while leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to Calgary in six games.

He moved on to Toronto and coached the Leafs to the Western Conference Finals in 1993 and 1994.

"Pat forged a tremendous bond, not only with a very good veteran team in Toronto, but also with Leafs fans everywhere," said Toronto senior adviser Cliff Fletcher, the GM who hired Burns to coach the Leafs. "He commanded respect from the players and the team quickly had great success while taking on the identity of the head coach. The Leafs' rise at the time was a testament to Pat's strength, toughness and determination. Hiring him 18 years ago was easily my best decision in hockey, and we developed a great friendship that I will always treasure. Pat will be greatly missed."

Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, during the Devils' first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. He received treatment during the summer and the ensuing work stoppage that cancelled the 2004-05 season, but just when he thought he was fit to get back in the game, Burns was diagnosed with liver cancer.

It wasn't until the spring of 2008 that Burns got back behind the bench, this time as an assistant to Ken Hitchcock for Canada's entry into the IIHF World Championships. However, just a few months later Burns learned he had incurable lung cancer.

The funeral mass for Burns will be held Monday, Nov. 29 in Montreal Cathedral at 2:30 p.m.

The Burns family will receive condolences beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde at 1085, rue de la Cathédrale in Montreal.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in Pat Burns' memory to: Maison Aube-Lumiére, 220, rue Kennedy Nord, Sherbrooke, Que. J1E 2E7.
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