John Madden was hit with tragic news, while still experiencing an euphoric high.
After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Minnesota Wild a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, he learned that a person that had been instrumental in his career had passed away: Pat Burns.
The former NHL coach, who aside from taking Madden and the rest of the New Jersey Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup, also stood behind the benches of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
Burns had battled and beaten colon and liver cancer in the the last few years but was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and died of it on Friday.
“It was just a great time we had in Jersey, and he was probably the best coach I ever had,” the 37-year-old Madden said as his voice quivered. “I know he was very ill. Maybe a month ago, there was that false report that he passed.
“Of course, he made a joke about it. He said, ‘Not yet.’ He’s always had a fighting spirit.”
Madden is in his 12th NHL season. He has been one of the league’s best defensive centers and penalty killers over his career after playing at the University of Michigan from 1993-94 to 1996-97. He also won Stanley Cups in 2000 with New Jersey and last season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Burns, who was a Gatineau, Quebec, police officer before becoming an NHL coach, made quite an impression on Madden.
“I’m very thrilled to have known Pat Burns,” he said. ” … He knew my personality and made me feel like I was an important part of the team.”
Madden was a Maple Leafs’ fan growing up in suburban Toronto for part of the time Burns coached the Toronto Maple Leafs, from 1992-93 to 1995-96.
Burns took the Leafs to consecutive Stanley Cup semifinal appearances in 1992-93, when they beat the Red Wings in seven games in the first round, and 1993-94.
He had previously coached Montreal from 1988-89 to 1991-92, guided Boston from 1997-98 to 2000-01 and New Jersey in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
When he finally won his first Stanley Cup in 2003, it came in a seven-game Final series over the Anaheim Ducks, who were coached by current Detroit coach Mike Babcock.
“Obviously sad … Just watching overall his coaching career, he coached over a thousand games in the league and won about 540 games. Had a great career and obviously has been battling like crazy over the last six years and eventually submitted,” Babcock said after Friday night’s game. “You pray for his family. Obviously a real good man and a real good coach that will be remembered in hockey circles forever.”
Burns’ career record was actually 501-350-161-14 in 1,019 games over 14 seasons.
He missed the playoff only once, in 1999-2000 with the Bruins, and was 78-71 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Burns also won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s Coach of the Year three times. In 1988-89 with Montreal, 1992-93 with Toronto and 1997-98 with Boston.
“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “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.”