Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 12/01/10 at 02:46 PM ET
I’ve tagged him the Lightning’s “wild card” all season, even before the neck injury that cost him 18 games. After a pointless first six games in a Lightning uniform, it was hard to forecast what Simon Gagne might bring to Tampa Bay this season. After all, recent history tells us that productivity elsewhere may not instantly equate to success alongside Vincent Lecavalier in Tampa (see: Tanguay, Alex, both before and after his single season as a Bolt). Add in that lingering injury – the latest in a career full of them for Gagne – and there is still really no telling what the former Flyer might be capable of for the long haul.
But, for a night, the wait was well worth it for both player and team, as Gagne lifted the Lightning to a 4-3 overtime decision in Toronto with the decisive tally in the extra frame.
Lecavalier remains out for the immediate future, so whether these two end up meshing as intended is still very much up in the air. And, of course, sustained health for Gagne is always a question mark (though, really, isn’t it for all of us?) But if Gagne’s impact on the Bolts last night is any indication as to what he might bring to the table for Tampa Bay in the long run, as my ever-optimistic Bolts Beat co-host, Mike Corcoran, suggests ad nauseam, maybe there really is something special coming together for the Lightning this season.
That the late Pat Burns’ belongings were stolen on Monday night, while his family and friends were celebrating his life in a local pub just hours after his funeral no less, is beyond despicable.
That the thief or thieves who committed the act knew just whose items they were taking, according to Montreal police and, full well, the timing of their crime to boot, automatically earns them scum-of-the-earth status.
There is no excuse, nor any acceptable apology or penance for such an act, though I doubt this type of evil coward would ever make any effort to amend for their actions anyway. That police have offered those responsible a “no questions asked” scenario, where the guilty parties could drop off the items at an agreed upon location to facilitate their return to the Burns family allows for some hope that someone who knows the perpetrator(s) might get in their ear and talk some sense into the very person or persons that have shown so little.
But even if some or all of the items are returned or recovered, though the Burns family will have these possessions back where they belong (and can carry on with their intentions of auctioning them off for charity, as has been reported), the reality that there are actual human beings out there willing to steep so low for some sort of personal gain will remain.
What a sickening reminder that some people, though they may have a heartbeat, have no heart whatsoever and, worse yet, that there are individuals out there who simply cannot differentiate between right and wrong, even at the most basic of levels.
Those responsible will get their just due, whether they are apprehended or not – and perhaps they’ve been getting just that all along.
After all, if an act such as this is part of the life that one is living, what kind of life is that anyway?
Though I offered my condolences, albeit very briefly, on the latest episode of The Bolts Beat, a busy schedule of late has prevented me from sharing my Pat Burns memories otherwise and I wanted to make sure I did just that.
While I cannot say that Pat was a personal friend, I did get to spend some time with him in recent seasons from our mutual hours spent at the St. Pete Times Forum – he, scouting for the New Jersey Devils and I, well, just doing what I do.
At the time, we sat on the same side of the Forum press box and, in the dreadful 2008-09 season, attendance (even up there) dwindled as the year wore on. With a full house, Burns would be seated aside some fellow hockey dignitary or another. With many empty seats, it became watch by yourself, essentially, or yuck it up with yours truly. Thankfully, on a handful of occasions, Pat and I got to talking throughout a game (and, no, I don’t at all mind if that was only by default on his part – given the choice between me and Scotty Bowman, say, I’d certainly pass myself over too).
A few tales stick out from the small number of games we took in together and, as I’ve learned by hearing and reading of the memories of many others who knew the man far better than I, my recollections of Pat Burns fall right in line with other vintage Burns moments.
During the early stages of Claude Lemieux’s 2009 comeback with San Jose, as I stood alone watching an intermission report on his journey from China to Worcester of the AHL and, finally, joining the NHL Sharks from one of the Center Ice broadcasts on a press box TV, Burns postured up alongside me, saw who the subject of the piece was and offered, “Pepe… Drove me [expletive] crazy when I had him [in Montreal].” And that was that – good for a shared laugh and something I’ll always remember.
Late in that season, much of what was witnessed can only be described as horrible hockey and, though horrible hockey is still hockey – something we all love, obviously – it was often, quite simply, tough to watch. Everything that year seemed to drag on for the Bolts and, on fourteen occasions, a home game went to overtime; nine of those, worst of all, were settled via shootout. On one such night which, looking back, I want to say was a March 17th visit from Toronto, where the Lightning led 3-0 but allowed a goal late in the second period before ceding the lead altogether in the third (though it could very well have been a different game, actually), as the shootout once again became an inevitable reality, Burns peered a few seats down press row at me – on this particular evening, what began as a well-populated affair on our row dissipated late – and barked, smiling, “Do you believe this [expletive]? Again, for [expletive]’s sake!” Again, a shared laugh, a roll of the eyes and a memory.
And, finally, long after the recurrence of Pat’s cancer – and his inevitable fate – had become public knowledge, during one of those few games where it was pretty much just he and I throughout, we talked of the game in front of us casually, as per usual, though all the while, I was trying to figure out how exactly I wanted to offer my condolences and support. By that time, while we weren’t best buds, we had spent enough time together that I didn’t want to
say something. Finally, probably half way through the game, I said what amounted to, “You know, Pat, I only know you from being up here and all but I still wanted to tell you how sorry I am to hear the recent news.” It probably came out far more awkwardly than that. In fact, I know it did because, right now, as I think back on what seemed like an eternity waiting for any kind of response to my attempt at sympathy from Pat, I’m getting the same feeling as I did then.
That eventual response? “Thanks. I appreciate that… Hey, have you seen this goalie play much before tonight?” The awkwardness was gone because Pat shooed it away just like that – with a thank you for the attempt I’d made at comfort and then right back to the subject at hand.
He just wanted to talk hockey.
And I’m thankful to have done just that, even a little, with the legendary coach.
Rest in peace, Pat Burns, and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Filed in: NHL Teams, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: pat+burns, simon+gagne, simon+gagne, vincent+lecavalier
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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