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Brodeur cherished bond with Pat Burns

Friday, 11.19.2010 / 8:07 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Brodeur cherished bond with Pat Burns
Pat Burns celebrates in 2003.
Martin Brodeur remembered Pat Burns as a demanding head coach that held all of his players accountable. It was certainly that level of commitment that made Burns so successful during his 14 seasons behind an NHL bench.

Burns, the man who led the Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup title, passed away Friday at the age of 58 after a long battle with cancer.

“He was honest,” Brodeur recalled this summer, when Burns was a candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010. “He wanted you to play really hard. He’s a guy that related to his assistant coaches a lot. I think he really made an effort that everybody needed to be involved. Usually in head coaches, you see that guys want to run the show by themselves. As a coach, Burnsy was a guy that loved to have a lot of people’s input.”

A respected and receptive leader, Burns accepted nothing less than the best. He coached in Montreal, Toronto and Boston, becoming the first to win three Jack Adams Awards as coach of the year before arriving in New Jersey.

Brodeur enjoyed two of his best seasons under Burns. He led the League in wins in 2002-03 (41) and 2003-04 (38), collecting his third and fourth Vezina Trophies.

I was really happy to be a part of his coaching career. - Martin Brodeur
“He was demanding, there’s no doubt about it,” Brodeur said. “Not winning was not acceptable to him, and he kept us accountable. That fit right in with what Lou [Lamoriello] loved in a coach in New Jersey. Winning a Stanley Cup was probably the highlight of his coaching career, but before he got to that he did a lot of great things in great organizations. When you go through the Montreals, the Torontos, the Bostons, you’re going through some of the great organizations. At the time that he took over the Devils, we were really successful, and I think it  says a lot about the type of coach that he was.”

Burns began his two-year stay with the Devils in 2002. He inherited a two-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time finalist that had just seen its postseason ended by Carolina in the first round.

He promptly guided New Jersey to 46 regular-season wins, the 2003 Atlantic Division title, and a fourth trip to the Finals. There, Burns and the Devils overcame the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in seven games for the club's third Cup in nine seasons.

Brodeur went 16-8 that spring with a 1.65 goals-against average and seven shutouts. Along the way, he and Burns developed a special bond.

“Pat was really important for my career,” Brodeur said. “I really enjoyed playing under him. I think it came at a time in my life that I had a lot of changes, so I needed a lot of support and Pat gave that to us, with his wife, Line, towards me and my wife, Genevieve, now. It was really nice, and we spent time together with the Stanley Cup when he had it in Quebec for a few days. It was really a good relationship and even when he wasn’t coaching, we still kept in touch a lot.”

The Devils won 43 games the next year. But following their elimination from the 2004 playoffs, Burns announced that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The lockout forced cancellation of the 2004-05 season, and Burns stepped down from head coaching on July 8, 2005.

“Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey,” Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “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 was the 11th coach in NHL history to reach the 1,000 games-coached mark, the ninth to reach the 500-win plateau. He posted a career record of 501-353-165 (.573) in 1,019 NHL games, compiling a mark of 89-53-22 (.610) in 164 games behind the Devils’ bench.

An arena being built in Stanstead, Quebec will bear Burns' name and was dedicated on March 26, 2010.