The fun, he said, had gone out of his job in Montreal. “When you won, they didn’t like the style you played. When you won, it was because the other team was no good. If you lost, it was because you had no system. If a player didn’t score on certain nights, it was because you were holding him back. If he did score, you didn’t play him enough. It was a no-win situation.”
(From The Pat Burns Story, by Rosie Dimanno, excerpted in Toronto Star, November 2, 2012)
There is a kind of prophetic and visionary wisdom and insight in Burn's words.
It is as if the Canadian culture, not only the hockey culture of Montreal, could be accurately summed up for a visitor from outer space, in these words.
There is a kind of "never satisfied" false humility that accompanies too many organizations, institutions and, sadly, even persons, in this country. Canada, and for Burns, Montreal, has become a 'critical parent' whose idea of support is to find fault, and to find it obsessively and self-righteously and even relentlessly. The spectator who purchases the tickets for the game, is rightfully entitled to complain if the product on the ice is not performing. However, to continue to complain, even when the team is winning, is nothing short of a projection of the insecurities of the complainant.
It is a kind of reverse superiority, a kind of reverse snobbery.
Our team is so good, we can even complain when we lose, because that is what we do, and no one has the right to rob us of that right.
Focussing on the inadequacies of either the player or the coach, and often both, demonstrates a kind of malaise that speaks to a level of both denial and arrogance, serving as a comingled mask for both hubris and neurosis.
Driving Burns out of Montreal was a gift for Toronto hockey fans, and for Burns himself, given Toronto's starvation, since 1967, of the opportunity to celebrate a Stanley Cup.
Driving the "fun" out of the job of coaching the Montreal Canadiens, a job most hockey professionals would "die for" if offered the chance, is a dynamic we can see, not only in the Burns story about Montreal, but in too many of our Canadian cultural, academic, corporate, religious and athletic endeavours.
We think, believe, act as if, and even expect life to be deprived of "fun" in the widest and deepest senses of that word. I recall an educated professional woman telling her university graduate third daughter that she disapproved of the daughter's desire to cruise one of the local lakes with her friends during summer vacation, "because that is not what life is like, or is supposed to be like."
Of course, the daughter went and to the extent possible, enjoyed her cruise on the lake, ever conscious of her mother's 'superior and ironically tragi-comic directive'.
This country, and the Burn's recounting of the "fun" having left the Montreal coaching scene for him depicts it too painfully accurately, is more than dour, more than presbyterian, more than catholic, more than addicted to and obsessed with "getting it right" that we ought to conduct immigration classes in countries where people are eagerly waiting for permission to emigrate to Canada. We need to tell them, that as new-comers, they will not be welcomed here except perhaps by their own indigenous ethnicity, or their religious institution, unless, of course, they bring a letter of a job offer with the promise of an integral place in the corporate maze, dependent, of course, on their ability to generate profits for that new employer. They will be perpetual outsiders, because the small-town moat is so deep and so alligator infested that it will never be crossed, in a million years, except perhaps by a "star" outside who bring extraordinary honour and fame to his newly chosen country.
When we are not the least bit charitable to our own, how can anyone expect us to be warm and welcoming and supporting to outsiders, even outsiders who come from a different part of our own country.
The fun had gone out of Montreal coaching for Pat Burns, and how many others could sing the same song, if given the opportunity, in every town and city across the country?
With educational, religious, parental and institutional support, vaccuming the "fun" out of too many experiences is a form of national self-sabotage, a quality that infects too many individuals in Canada, who have to look elsewhere for the fun their Canadian experience considers "trivial"....just like the mother of that daughter above.
By Rosie DiManno, Coach, excerpted in Toronto Star, November 2, 2012
Excerpted from Coach: The Pat Burns Story. Copyright © 2012 Rosie DiManno. Published by Doubleday Canada, an imprint of the Doubleday Canada Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
He (Pat Burns) became only the second man in the annals of the NHL to coach both storied franchises, Dick Irvin being the other. But Burns had switched from a perennial contender, with whom he’d posted a .609 winning percentage in four seasons — the best mark in the NHL during that span — to a franchise that hadn’t finished over .500 since 1978–79. He had his hands full.
Asked what needed doing to transform a team that had missed the playoffs in three of the past four years, Burns said, “The players will have to learn what it takes to win, and I’ll be there every night to remind them.” Finally, after an absence of fifteen years and with the death of barmy owner Harold Ballard, there was a palpable sense of change in the air, something to fuel optimism. When a French-language reporter at the packed press conference asked Burns, “Quelques mots en français?” he retorted in faux exasperation: “I thought that was finished.”
The forty-year-old coach pulled on a Leaf jacket for photographs. “It’s a funny feeling, but I like the feeling.” The local media horde was excited, and so was Burns. “Coming to another hockey Mecca like Toronto makes you a better coach. I want to have fun again. I want to make it fun for everybody, and it’s fun when you win.” The fun, he said, had gone out of his job in Montreal. “When you won, they didn’t like the style you played. When you won, it was because the other team was no good. If you lost, it was because you had no system. If a player didn’t score on certain nights, it was because you were holding him back. If he did score, you didn’t play him enough. It was a no-win situation.”