Pat Burns: Not Dead


pat burns alive

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from today’s events.

You all most likely know by now what it is I’m talking about. This morning, about 11:30 or so local time, the news came across the airwaves via the all sports radio station I was listening to, that Pat Burns had died. Immediate and profound sadness. For whatever reason, like a lot of my fellow black and gold supporters, Burns had always been a favorite amongst Bruins’ coaches. Something about the way he did things, a straight shooter who had little tolerance for bullshit, an Irish cop’s mentality (and sense of humor), endeared him forever to a great many in Boston.

So the news he had passed was something big.

After the initial pang of regret, my thought was to post the news here. I went to a computer to do so. However, real world demands prevented me from doing so.

Which turned out to be a good thing.

Otherwise I would be amongst the many, including TSN, The Montreal Gazette and many others, with a bit of egg on their face right now. Incorrectly reporting a man’s death without fully checking it out in a rush to be one of the first people out there with the story.

Welcome to Planet Twitter. The dangerous thing about an environment where news can spread with wildfire rapidity is that so can unfounded rumors. The real crime, though, is that the big news outlets, like 98.5 The Sports Hub here in Boston, owned by CBS Radio, jump on the story so quickly and treat it as fact before it can actually be confirmed. Let me say that again because it used to be a concept that was important in the world of Journalism.


A story as serious as this one, a story about whether or not a man is alive or dead, needs to be sorted out before one goes live with the news. And, believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone of sometimes seeking out that rush of being one of the first out there with a certain bit of news. After all, I was on my way to do just that, give you the news and then write out my own sort of rambling Eulogy for the guy.

But I would have been wrong to do so. As it turns out, there’s something to be said about being correct instead of just plain fast. I mean, what’s the point of being the first one there with the story if the story you’ve got is false. For some, there’s not as much shame in that as there should be, I know. They take down their web page, they retract the story, maybe apologize and move on. I know I would have been appalled with myself if I had posted this news incorrectly. I’m hoping a bit of fact checking would have stopped me.

Because, of course, as we all know now, Pat Burns is very much still alive. In fact, he relays this message to use all via Bob Mckenzie.

“Here we go again. 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 fucking from it. They’ve had me dead since June. Tell them I’m alive. Set them straight.”

You see why I like this guy?

Turns out the story originated with Toronto Maple Leafs adviser Cliff Fletcher and CTV in Ottawa ran with it. Red faces all around, eh boys?

So, anyway, no retraction to be posted here, no apology. No mysterious, disappearing web pages. But lesson learned, man, that’s for sure. And there’s Pat Burns for you.

Still teaching us.


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