There's a very good chance that Pat Burns will eventually end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame anyway, but a Facebook campaign is picking up steam in its quest to land the former coach in the Hall as soon as possible.
Approximately 13,000 members have joined an online group, the purpose of which is to get the cancer-stricken Burns into the Hall under the "builder" category. Unlike players, who are subjected to a mandatory waiting period of three years after their careers end, builders can enter the Hall at any time.
Burns, who turns 58 on April 4, is suffering from lung cancer but has opted not to undergo chemotherapy, and he says it may not be too long before he passes on.
The Facebook group's intention is to have Burns inducted into the Hall while he is still alive, and some of his contemporaries are in full support of the idea.
“If something like that could happen I think that it would be great for Pat,” said Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. “As I understand he has said himself that he doesn't think that he's going to be around for a long time. If we could speed up the process, essentially like we did for Roger Neilson, it would be a good thing."
Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault echoed those sentiments.
“Without a doubt he has been one of the best coaches, whether it be in junior hockey or the NHL level,” said Vigneault. “I think he has three Jack Adams and he's won a Cup. He's an honest and straightforward person and we're all behind him.”
Just last week, the Montreal native Burns attended a ground-breaking ceremony in Quebec for an arena that will be named in his honour. Those present at the event included Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Senator (and former coach) Jacques Demers, Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello, ex-Leaf Felix Potvin and others.
"I probably won't see the project to the end," Burns said at the ground-breaking. "But let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux."
It is yet to be determined whether the Facebook group will have any effect on the Hall's selection committee.
During his fabled NHL coaching career, Burns spent 1,019 total games behind the bench for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, who he led to a Stanley Cup win in 2003.
His career record was 501-350-175.
He won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year three times, the only coach in league history to achieve that honour.
While Burns would very possibly be a Hall of Fame inductee in the future, the concept behind the Facebook campaign is to see him put in the Hall before he passes on.
Just a few years ago, Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer and liver cancer.
He opted not to undergo any more chemotherapy when he was told the cancer had returned in 2009.
"It's a tough time for my family," he said. "I know my life is nearing its end and I accept that.
"As for my career, I always said to my kids 'you don't cry because it's over, you're happy because it happened.' That's the main thing," said Burns last week. "I'm very happy that it happened."