Burns to begin treatment immediately

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:32 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Pat Burns vows to battle colon cancer with the same intensity that helped the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup last season.

The coach will begin treatment immediately, he announced Sunday, a day after his team was eliminated from the playoffs.

Pat Burns' future as Devils coach will be determined once he finishes cancer treatments.

"For those who know me well, I've never backed down from any fight," Burns said.

"And I'm not going to back down from this one."

Burns, 52, said his status with the Devils will be determined in six to eight weeks, when the treatment ends. He will have treatment five days a week, beginning this week.

Burns spoke to reporters at Continental Airlines Arena, with his wife and Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello nearby. Burns read from a prepared statement and did not answer questions.

"The last month or so I have not been feeling well," he said. "There were signs that something was not right, but I was reluctant to do anything because the playoffs were coming up."

A three-time NHL Coach of the Year, Burns led the Devils to their third Stanley Cup title in nine years last season, his first with the team.

New Jersey lost to Philadelphia 3-1 Saturday, ending their best-of-seven first-round series after five games.

"I wasn't the coach I should have been the last couple of weeks, but I had a lot of things on my mind so it was understandable," he said.

Burns insisted on coaching the Devils against the Flyers, although he said treatment would have prevented him from coaching if New Jersey had advanced to the second round.

"He was trying to get the team ready 100 percent, just like he always does," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "We didn't notice anything until he didn't come to a couple of morning skates. Then we knew he wasn't feeling well."

Burns missed two practices last week.

Devils captain Scott Stevens described the reaction of the Devils to Burns' illness as "shock and depression."

"This definitely puts everything in perspective," Stevens said. "Hopefully he'll fight through this. He's a tough guy."

Burns also coached Montreal, Toronto and Boston for a total of 13 seasons.

"He was great with me. He was very supportive and always helping me," said Boston's Andrew Raycroft, who played briefly for Burns. "That's unbelievable. It's too bad and I wish him the best, and I'm sure he'll fight through."

Before joining the Devils, Burns hadn't coached since being let go by the Bruins only eight games into the 2000-01 season. There was talk it would be tough for him to find a job because teams sought younger coaches with new ideas, new systems and no reluctance to try new things.

But Burns, a former policeman from Hull, Quebec, with a self-proclaimed inability to smile, meshed well with the Devils.

Burns' record with the Devils is 89-53-22, and 17-12 in the playoffs. He is 501-367-151 overall.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press