October 29, 2012

Coach: The Pat Burns Story

2012 has been a very good year for hockey books. There have been some high quality releases, particularly in the biography genre. But it was not until now that I found one that truly stood above the rest. Coach: The Pat Burns Story is the best hockey biography of the year.

Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Pat Burns was one of the great NHL coaches. He worked with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, and seemed always to enjoy instant success. He capped his extraordinary career by coaching the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup victory in 2003. Cancer--his third bout--finally claimed him in 2010, aged 58.

Rosie DiManno, the notable Toronto Star columnist, knew Burns well. She has written a revealing and heartfelt account of his life, warts and all. From his fatherless childhood to his years as a police officer to his glorious NHL years and his valiant fight against cancer. Her gifted writing ability combined with her personal insight makes for a riveting read.

I must admit, I never liked Pat Burns. For all his success behind the bench, there was something I did not like about him. Considering that the closest I ever came to meeting him was on my television, that was pretty self-righteous of me. But he just seemed like a mean, unlikeable bully. There was no denying his ability or his success, but my instincts told me I simply did not like him.

What I like best about Dimanno's portrait of Pat Burns is that she is very open about his many faults. She does not turn a blind eye to his less than endearing qualities, but instead tries to explain them. In doing so, I felt I truly got to know Pat Burns, the coach and the man. I definitely recognized the man I never really liked, yet I finally came to understand why. I am very thankful to Dimanno for that opportunity.

In learning just who Pat Burns really was, including his faults, I found myself opening up to Burns, or at least to the man Burns became over the years. It is simply a masterful presentation by Dimanno.

Of course there is plenty of hockey to relive and learn all about. From his days with Montreal and Toronto, then Boston and New Jersey. From his at-times controversial relationships with the likes of Patrick Roy, Stephane Richer, Claude Lemieux, and Doug Gilmour to his Stanley Cup championship in 2003. There's no shortage of great hockey history to be found here.

But first and foremost this is an intimate biography of one of hockey's most complex individuals. There are quite a few strong bios out there there this. Rosie Dimanno's Coach: The Pat Burns Story is the best of the best.


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