Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said Pat Burns came to terms with dying
When former NHL coach Pat Burns decided to stop treatments for cancer, he acknowledged the end of his life was in sight. It clearly was an emotional issue as he spoke about it last season in the press box of the St. Pete Times Forum, where the Port Charlotte resident spent much of his time since retiring, watching the Lightning, but he handled it with grace and good humor.
In fact, former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk, who played for Burns in Boston and Toronto, said Burns' decision gave him peace.
"He fought this battle for a long time," Andreychuk said Saturday, the day after Burns, 58, died. "I knew he had stopped treatment and was enjoying life. I've seen him quite a few times over the years, and that's the happiest I've seen him, to be quite honest with you, trying to enjoy life and knowing it was going to come to an end eventually."
For me, there were two sides to Pat Burns. I covered him during the 2003 Stanley Cup final, when he led the Devils over the Ducks. He was a grouch, to put it mildly. years later, when I got to know him a bit from interactions at the Times Forum press box, he was a gentleman, always available to talk and very funny.
"I think he did change when he wasn't coaching anymore," Andreychuk said. "I think a lot of it was the persona he wanted. As a player, knowing him, he got the best out of his players. He was very demanding. But after you knew him as a person, he was totally different than he was behind the bench. People who only knew him as a coach thought he was a miserable guy who didn't deal with anybody very well. But the reality was he was a really good guy."
Burns coached the Canadiens, whom he took to the finals in 1989 only to lose to the Flames, the Maple leafs, Bruins and Devils. He missed the playoffs only twice. Andreychuk said his image of Burns will always be as the coach of the 1992-93 Leafs, which began a two-season Toronto run to the final four of the playoffs. Andreychuk played for both teams, but said the first was the most memorable.
"For a bunch of guys who really came from no where, he got us all the play together as a group," Andreychuk said. "He got the most out of the third- and fourth-line guys, which made a big difference in our run to the final four two years in a row. So, that's the one thing I'll take from him as a coach. And I'll remember him in the press box and off the ice and remember what a good guy he was."
Andreychuk said he and Burns shared a passion for motorcycles.
"He would tell me, 'I get on my motorcycle and forget about the things that were happening around me,' " Andreychuk said. "There's some truth to that."