When I sit down to write the Hamilton Bulldogs Weekly Recap, I usually try to introduce the article with some interesting comment and some statistics about how the Dogs played during the past week and where they currently sit in the AHL standings. However, it was the news of Pat Burns passing away last Friday at the age of 58 from a long battle with cancer that has made me decide to alter this week’s introduction.
The late Bob Johnson (former Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also lost his life to cancer back in 1991) was well-known among hockey players and fans for always saying, “It’s a great day for hockey!” But today is not a great day for hockey. It is a sad one. Pat Burns was a well-respected Coach who had a tough, no-nonsense approach with his players and was intensely passionate towards the game. With his death, the hockey world has lost a great Coach and a great man.
Burns coached 1,019 games in the NHL with four different teams, finishing with a 501-353-151-14 record. He won the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 and won the Jack Adams Trophy three times, the most of any Coach in the NHL, with the other three teams (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins).
Despite his levels of success with New Jersey and Boston, when one thinks of Pat Burns, Montreal and Toronto probably come to mind the most. And it is ironic that he succumbed to his illness right in the middle of a series between the AHL affiliates of both clubs: the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Toronto Marlies.
The first game of the series would take place at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton on Tuesday November 16th. This would be the third of ten games between the two teams this season, with each team claiming a victory in the previous two meetings. This game would remain scoreless until 8:33 of the 3rd period when Ryan White finally broke the stalemate, assisted by Aaron Palushaj and Alexander Avtsin. The Hamilton celebration was put on hold only 23 seconds later, however, when the Marlies answered back, blasting a shot past Bulldogs starting goaltender, Curtis Sanford. The score would remain tied at 1-1 through the remainder of regulation time and the 5-minute overtime period that followed. Alexander Avtsin and David Desharnais would provide the scoring in the resulting shootout to determine the winner. It’s interesting to note that Desharnais actually shot twice in a row due to a mix up regarding the order in which the Bulldogs players were to shoot. Desharnais scored on his first attempt but the goal was disallowed after the officials checked the shooting order and determined that it was actually Ben Maxwell who was supposed to have been on the ice at the time. Desharnais then took his correct turn following the mix up and scored once again, giving the Hamilton Bulldogs a 2-1 victory over the Marlies.
On Friday November 19th, the Bulldogs took a quick trip across the Border to visit their other North Division rivals, the Rochester Americans. Avtsin got things started for Hamilton when he scored at 19:08 in the 1st period on the power play. The team would rally behind him, scoring four straight goals in the 2nd frame, to give the Dogs the lead that they needed to defeat the Americans by what would turn out to be a final score of 5-3.
The next afternoon, on Saturday November 20th, Hamilton and Toronto would continue their series with a 3:00pm game at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. Max Pacioretty would score his first professional hat trick, as well as getting the only goal for the Bulldogs in yet another shootout. But his efforts were just not enough to give Hamilton the win, as they were downed by the home-team Marlies by a final score of 4-3. Assisting on Pacioretty’s goals were David Desharnais (2), Ben Maxwell, and J.T. Wyman. Robert Mayer picked up the loss while stopping 30 of 33 shots.
Finally, closing out the week’s schedule of four games in six days, the Bulldogs clashed with the Marlies one more time on Sunday November 21st, again at the Ricoh Coliseum. This game was broadcast Nationally across Canada on CBC television and those who viewed the game witnessed the Hamilton Bulldogs defeat the Toronto Marlies 3-1. Max Pacioretty, Gabriel Dumont, and J.T. Wyman scored for the Dogs, with Neil Petruic and Ben Maxwell collecting the assists. Wyman’s goal was an empty-netter, assisted by Pacioretty. Curtis Sanford made 28 saves on 29 shots to improve his record on the season to 6 wins and 1 loss.
And somewhere high above, I’m sure that Pat Burns was watching and smiling, because there is nothing better than the old rivalry of the Canadiens/Bulldogs vs the Toronto Maple Leafs/Marlies. Maybe it is a great day for hockey after all.