Burns’ Widow Has No Regret

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Nov. 15) — It was Hall of Fame Media Day on Friday afternoon and a couple of Pats were missing – both former coaches of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hall of Fame chairman Pat Quinn was home in Vancouver, battling illness, while 2014 inductee Pat Burns was spoken about posthumously; represented by his widow, Line Gignac Burns.

The eligibility of the former became a contentious issue in the summer of 2010, when the three-time Jack Adams Award recipient was dying of cancer. Clearly, he would one day be inducted into the Hall and a big push was made for Burns to be part of the 2010 Class while still alive. Ultimately, he was overlooked by the selection committee in favor of Dino Ciccarelli, Cammi Granato, Angela James, Jimmy Devellano and Daryl (Doc) Seaman. Granato and James were the first female hockey players elected while ex–Calgary Flames part–owner Seaman, ironically, had died the previous year of prostate cancer. No one disputed the credibility of the 2010 inductees but many felt it rather callous that Burns wasn’t among them. He lost his cancer battle, at age 58, on Nov. 29 of that year.

There was, however, neither bitterness nor regret from his widow on Friday afternoon. “No, not at all,” said Line Burns. “When I look back at 2010, I think Pat felt disappointed for us [his family and friends], not for himself. And, obviously, we were disappointed for him because we knew he didn’t have much time left. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter anymore. His name is here now and that’s what counts. I know he is looking down today and I have so many signs that he is with me. Especially in the past week and I think it will be that way all this weekend. He would be very humbled and happy today — no grumpy Pat.”  

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MY PHOTO OF LINE BURNS, FRIDAY AFTERNOON, TALKING ABOUT HER LATE HUSBAND AT THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME. PAT BURNS DIED OF CANCER IN NOVEMBER 2010.

The latter reference was to her late husband’s legendary surliness with the hockey media, though Burns could also be funny and charming (I experienced the entire spectrum of his emotion while covering the Leafs early in my radio career). As a coach, he was mostly a disciplinarian with a scorching desire to win. His Toronto club of 1992-93 — led, on the ice, by Doug Gilmour — came within one victory of playing Montreal for the Stanley Cup, losing to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in a memorable Game 7 (May 29, 1993) at Maple Leaf Gardens. It remains the farthest any Leafs team has advanced since the last Cup triumph in 1967.

I spent a good portion of Friday afternoon prancing about the Hockey Hall of Fame with my trusty NIKON.

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THE 2010 CLASS SHOWS OFF ITS HALL RINGS. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: MIKE MODANO, REFEREE BILL McCREARY, DOMINIK HASEK, PETER FORSBERG, LINE BURNS AND ROB BLAKE.

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EXTERIOR OF THE HALL OF FAME (ABOVE) AT YONGE AND FRONT ST. IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO AND A GOLD PLAQUE (BELOW) ON SIDE OF THE HISTORIC BUILDING.

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WIDE SHOT (ABOVE) OF THE MEDIA HORDE AND THE STAINED-GLASS DOME (BELOW) OF THE ESSO GRAND HALL, WHERE FRIDAY’S EVENT TOOK PLACE.

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MIKE MODANO ANSWERS A QUESTION FROM TSN’s GORD MILLER (MASTER OF CEREMONY AT THE EVENT), WHILE McCREARY, HASEK AND FORSBERG LOOK ON.

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DOMINIK HASEK — THE GREATEST EUROPEAN-BORN GOALIE IN NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE HISTORY — ANSWERS MEDIA QUESTIONS AND SHOWS OFF HIS HALL OF FAME RING. IN NINE YEARS WITH THE BUFFALO SABRES (1992-93 TO 2000-01), HASEK WON THE VEZINA TROPHY SIX TIMES AND THE HART TROPHY AS LEAGUE MVP IN CONSECUTIVE SEASONS (1996-97 AND 1997-98). DURING THAT TIME, WAYNE GRETZKY CALLED HASEK THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD AT ANY POSITION.

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LINE BURNS IS INTERVIEWED (LEFT) BY GORD MILLER WHILE McCREARY RESPONDS TO QUESTION (RIGHT). BILL REFEREED 1,737 REGULAR-SEASON NHL GAMES AND 297 PLAYOFF MATCHES DURING HIS CAREER. HIS 44 STANLEY CUP FINAL GAMES ARE THE MOST BY ANY REFEREE.

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McCREARY… HASEK… FORSBERG.

HALL OF FAME EXPERIENCE

While puttering around the Hall after Friday’s media event, I captured several of the displays and artifacts. It truly is a magnificent place.

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BRONZE STATUE OF KEN DRYDEN IN HIS FAMILIAR GOALTENDING POSE. DRYDEN WON THE STANLEY CUP SIX TIMES WITH MONTREAL BETWEEN 1971 AND 1979.

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CANADIENS JERSEY WORN BY THE GREAT MAURICE (ROCKET) RICHARD.

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FORMER TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS GOALIE JOHNNY BOWER TURNED 90 LAST WEEK. HIS HALL OF FAME DISPLAY (ABOVE) WILL LIVE ON ETERNALLY.

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MY FAVORITE PART OF THE HALL — GAME-WORN JERSEYS. TOP-LEFT: ST. LOUIS BLUES AND PITTSBURGH PENGUINS FROM THE FIRST YEAR OF EXPANSION, 1967-68. TOP-RIGHT (CLOCKWISE): HARTFORD WHALERS, LOS ANGELES KINGS, WINNIPEG JETS AND QUEBEC NORDIQUES. BELOW: CLEVELAND BARONS AND ATLANTA FLAMES.

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THE HALL OF FAME HAS A PRECISE MOCK-UP OF THE CANADIENS’ DRESSING ROOM AT THE OLD MONTREAL FORUM, COMPLETE WITH GAME-WORN JERSEYS. ABOVE: KEN DRYDEN AND JACQUES PLANTE. BOTTOM-LEFT: JEAN BELIVEAU (4) AND BERNIE GEOFFRION (5). BOTTOM-RIGHT: LARRY ROBINSON, GUY LAFLEUR AND SERGE SAVARD.

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AND YOU CAN BUY…

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JUST ABOUT ANYTHING — FORMER AND CURRENT — AT THE HALL’S SPIRIT OF HOCKEY SHOP.

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HALL OF FAME LOGO ON FLOOR OF THE MAIN ENTRANCE.

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