Hey Hockey Hall of Fame: Induct Pat Burns. NOW

Pat Burns (Lou Capozzola /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Pat Burns (Lou Capozzola /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

The Hockey Hall of Fame’s annual induction announcement is slated for 3 p.m. Monday afternoon – and, as usual, there will be a debate over the players who made the cut and the ones who didn’t. But there’s one debate, about one prominent hockey figure who still hasn’t been honored by the HHOF, that was over long ago – and one injustice that deserves to be corrected today.

Pat Burns should be in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, full stop, end of story.

The fact is, Burns should’ve been inducted as a builder before lung cancer took his life in November of 2010. He won more Jack Adams Trophies (three) as the NHL’s best coach than anyone in history. He coached three Original Six franchises; amassed a 501-353-151-14 record; is currently seventh all-time in playoff games coached (149) and tied with Mike Babcock for ninth all-time in playoff coaching wins (78) and won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey. If previous bouts with colon and liver cancer hadn’t forced him out of action in 2004, Burns would have even more impressive credentials.

This it was why it was such a black mark on the HHOF’s reputation when Burns passed away without being honored. It’s bad enough the organization’s selection committee operates with zero transparency when there’s consensus on an HHOF candidate, but when there’s no valid explanation for keeping out someone respected as universally as Burns was, it borders on revolting.

The best thing the HHOF could’ve done was inducted Burns when he was still with us. Nearly four years later, they have rationalized ways to avoid doing so and it is just as indefensible as it was then. If they choose not to honor him this year, I’d love nothing more than to see the selection committee members who rejected his candidacy step up in public and explain why. (I’d also love a helicopter to fly me to work every day and lower me to the ground using a ladder made out of supermodels, but I don’t expect that to happen, either.)

The committee doesn’t have to wait 23 years to posthumously honor a legendary coach the way it did with Flyers legend Fred Shero (who was finally inducted last year). You don’t improve an induction by marinating it in wasted time and whispered excuses. You atone for past mistakes by addressing them as soon as possible.

And make no mistake – keeping Burns out this long was a clear mistake.

Pat Burns should be in the Hall of Fame. No doubt, full stop, end of story.