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NHL coaching great Pat Burns loses battle with cancer

TORONTO (Reuters) - Pat Burns, a tough-talking Quebec cop who coached the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup and became the only man to win NHL coach of the year honors with three teams, died on Friday aged 58 after a long battle with cancer.

"Just as they will remember Pat for his success as a coach, hockey fans also will remember his humor, his honesty, his humanity and his courage," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

"As it mourns the loss of an outstanding contributor to the game, the National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to Pat's family and friends."

A blue-collar hero to hockey fans across Canada and the United States, Burns went from pounding a police beat to become one of the NHL's most successful coaches capturing the Stanley Cup in 2003 with the Devils.

The following year, however, Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer and then in 2005 liver cancer which he managed to overcome before contracting lung cancer last year.

"On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns," said Devils' president and general manager Lou Lamoriello in a statement.

"Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey.

"He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador."

During a career that spanned 14 seasons, Burns also coached three of the Original Six franchises in Montreal, Toronto and Boston winning the Jack Adams trophy as NHL coach of the year at each stop while posting an overall record of 501-353-165.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Rex Gowar/Patrick Johnston)

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