BOSTON -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is eternally grateful for the guidance and support he received from Pat Burns.
Burns, the former Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Bruins and Devils coach, passed away Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 58.
It’s no coincidence Julien’s coaching path has mirrored that of Burns. Both began their coaching careers with the Hull Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and both coached the Canadiens, Devils and Bruins. Both men won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach.
Burns coached 254 games for the Bruins from May 21, 1997 to Oct. 25, 2000 and won the Jack Adams Award following the 97-98 season.
When Julien won the Jack Adams Award after the 2008-2009 Bruins season, it was Burns who presented him with the honor.
“I was so honored to receive it from him because I consider him a friend,” Julien said. “At the time, my comment was: ‘If I could even accomplish what you’ve accomplished I’ll be a really happy coach.’ He won three Jack Adams, he’s got a Stanley Cup and he’s done so much.”
When Burns was coaching in Boston , he asked management to interview Julien for the coaching job of the organization’s AHL affiliate in Providence. Even when Julien was hired to coach the New Jersey Devils, he’s convinced Burns spoke with the team’s GM, Lou Lamoriello, and put in a good word for him.
“I had Pat’s support and he always had a good thing to say about me,” Julien said. “I’m grateful to him, and I’m grateful for him leaving such big shoes to fill to push me to be the best coach I can be.”
“The one thing everybody knows about Pat is he was sincere and direct,” Julien said. “There was no beating around the bush with him. The part that people didn’t always see was away from all of that, he’s a really good guy. I was fortunate, and I’ve said it before, to follow his path.
“Maybe part of that has helped me become a better coach because I had some big shoes to fill along the way. When Pat leaves somewhere, he’s obviously left his print.”
Burns definitely left his mark in Boston.
"On behalf of the Jacobs family and the entire Boston Bruins family, I would like to express our deep sorrow on the passing of Pat Burns,” said Bruins president Cam Neely. “Pat was a great coach and more importantly a wonderful man. The Bruins are honored to have him as a part of our history. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burns family."
The Bruins reached the playoffs twice during Burns’ tenure in Boston.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Julien said. “He was a guy who didn’t always get along with every player, but every player liked him and respected him.”