Pat Burns sets record straight

Updated: September 17, 2010, 6:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORONTO -- Pat Burns wants the world to know that he's still very much alive, despite reports and thousands of tweets suggesting otherwise.

The former NHL coach, who has survived bouts with colon and liver cancer but now has incurable lung cancer, called TSN of Canada hockey columnist Bob McKenzie on Friday after seeing reports of his death at age 58.

"Here we go again," the three-time NHL coach of the year told TSN. "They're trying to kill me before I'm dead. I come to Quebec to spend some time with my family and they say I'm dead. I'm not dead, far [expletive] from it. They've had me dead since June. Tell them I'm alive. Set them straight."

Montreal radio station CKAC, whom Burns has worked for, also spoke with the former coach, who expressed he "doesn't want to be pitied," was happy and has accepted the status of his health.

Burns told the Toronto Star late Friday afternoon: "I'm still alive and kicking. I'm hanging in."

According to Canadian media reports, word that Burns had supposedly passed away originated in Toronto. Cliff Fletcher, special adviser to the Maple Leafs and a close friend of Burns', had been told that Burns had died, and he spoke with the media about it.

The report spread like wildfire via tweets and blogs. Obituaries also ran online until Burns put a stop to the whole thing with a call to TSN.

Later Friday afternoon, Fletcher issued an apology.

"I extend my deepest apologies to Pat Burns and his family. Unfortunately, I was misinformed by a friend earlier [Friday] and my public comments were completely inaccurate," Fletcher said in the statement.

Burns, a former police officer in Quebec, coached the Montreal Canadiens (1988-1992); Toronto Maple Leafs (1992-1996); Boston Bruins (1997-2001) and New Jersey Devils (2002-2004).

It was with the Devils, in the 2002-03 season, that Burns won a Stanley Cup.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004 and liver cancer in 2005. He revealed in January 2009 that he had terminal lung cancer.

Kevin Dixon, another friend of Burns', told the Star in an e-mail: "Hey all, just talked to Pat, and he is grocery shopping. He can't decide if he will have pork chops this evening or steak."

According to the Star, Burns has responded to the reports with gruff amusement.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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