September 17, 2010
The death of Pat Burns was news to Pat Burns.
This week, it was reported that the three-time NHL coach of the year had returned home to Magog, Que. and that he "appears to be near the end of his fight with lung cancer." On Friday morning, the following dire news appeared on the Twitter feed for FAN 590 in Toronto:
@FAN590: Ray Ferraro on The TEAM 1040 reports that former Maple Leafs Head coach Pat Burns has passed away at the age of 58.
That ignited a media frenzy reporting on the report of Pat Burns's death at 58, including confirmation from CTV Ottawa that he had died. Confirmation that it soon retracted when members of the Burns family and family friends began telling anyone who would listen that he hadn't, in fact, died.
"Here we go again," said the three-time NHL coach of the year. "They're trying to kill me before I'm dead. I come to Quebec to spend some time with my family and they say I'm dead. I'm not dead, far [expletive] from it. They've had me dead since June. Tell them I'm alive. Set them straight."
Provided this wasn't some sort of "Weekend at Burnsy's" style hoax, it would appear Pat Burns continues to battle as he's battled for the better part of a decade.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer during the 2003-04 season and beat it. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2005, and beat it. Then he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2009, and Burns decided to forgo treatment but continued to soldier on.
Burns won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003. He left coaching after his third cancer diagnosis with a career record of 501-353-151-14, for 1,167 points and a .573 winning percentage. Before last postseason, he was eighth in NHL history with 78 playoff victories; making the postseason 11 out of 14 seasons with the Habs, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins and the Devils. He remains the only three-time winner of the Jack Adams award for coach of the year in NHL history, with Montreal (1989), Toronto (1993) and Boston (1998).
As he battled lung cancer, an Internet campaign last season to get Burns elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame grew to over 71,000 fans strong. If that effort showed the overwhelmingly positive impact of social media, today's death-by-Twitter revealed its opposite.