Everyone has a story about Pat Burns.
His was one of the first faces I saw when I started watching hockey as a young child. I was, and am a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan, and Burns was the coach of the Habs in the late '80s, which is when I have my first conscious memories of watching hockey on TV.
I have to admit that what I do remember is a big scary man with a moustache who was always yelling; yelling at the players, yelling at referees, yelling at other coaches - yelling at everybody. I thought he was a mean man, but as I got older, and Burns moved on to coach the Leafs, Bruins and eventually the Devils, I always wanted him back behind the bench in Montreal.
I guess it was because he was the first coach I had known for my beloved Habs. Now that he is gone, I see and hear a lot of stories very similar to mine. Everyone was afraid of Pat Burns because of his scary demeanor, but in reality, he was a great man who always meant well. He was an ex-police officer, and maybe the only way he knew how to express himself was to yell.
After he was diagnosed with cancer and it was learned that he would not recover, it was obviously very upsetting for the hockey world. For a man who always looked well-fed, Burns was weak and frail, which was saddening to see.
Although I had never met him in person, it felt as though I knew him because he was a big part of my childhood.
When it was reported that he had passed away the first time a few months ago, and then subsequently proven that he was in alive, I thought to myself that maybe he would beat the cancer and live on simply because he was too stubborn to die.
When I heard the news on Friday that he had passed away - for real this time - I had to fight back the tears, as I'm sure many other hockey fans who have watched him over the past two decades did as well.
Au revoir Pat, you will be missed.