I just finished reading Coach: The Pat Burns story, and I wanted to like it. I really did.
But after taking some time to think about it, I can’t really support it in any way. It’s chock-full of mistakes, and it makes me wonder what else could be wrong. It takes away from everything, and lessens what should have been a more enjoyable read for me. But it’s because of my background as an editor, but it drives me nuts when I find errors in books.
Here are four mistakes I found in Coach:
1) When talking about the 1989 Stanley Cup finals, author Rosie Dimanno writes that Flames forward Lanny McDonald scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 6, a 4-1 Flames win. That’s not right on two levels. Doug Gilmour scored the Cup winning goal (McDonald scored the insurance goal). And the final score was 4-2. This is important because Gil our became such a big part of Burns’ life later on in Burns’ career, but there’s no mention of that connection.
2) Wendel Clark and Dave Andreychuk scored 99 goals combined during the 1993-94 season, which was “By far the highest the highest total by any two wingers on any team hat year.” In St. Louis, Brett Hull scored 57 goals, and Brendan Shanahan scored 52 that season. Combined, that is 109 goals, which is more than 99 goals Clark and Andreychuk scored.
3) Quebec traded for Clark in 1994 because they just got roughhoused in the playoffs against the Canadiens. There’s two things wrong with this: The Habs never played the Nordiques that postseason. The Canadiens lost to Boston in the first round (it was the series where Patrick Roy was dealing with appendicitis). And Quebec never even made the playoffs that season (they finished 11th that season in the Eastern conference).
4) When the New Jersey Devils, led by Burns, won the Stanley cup in 2003, Scott Niedermayer changed into his uniform to raise the Cup with his teammates. But Niedermayer was in uniform, getting g two assists in Game 7 against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. It was Joe Nieuwendyk who was injured, never played in the finals and got into his uniform the lift the Cup.
Dimanno was a sports writer for a while, so these should be basic enough facts that she should know. I could see one mistake slipping by, but four major hockey mistakes? It makes me wonder what else is wrong in the book. For example, was there really a trade offer of Shayne Corson for Wendel Clark that the Habs backed out off? Can I really trust that this book is accurate enough that many of the other things I didn’t know is true?
Sadly, the answer is no. It unfortunately takes away from the book.
Like I said, I really wanted to like this book. I first became a Habs fan around 1988, and Pat Burns is still my favourite coach of all-time. I’m the guy who once e-mailed a complaint to Sportsnet about its coverage on Burns’ passing. It was great to have someone behind the bench who knew what they were doing, but raised the intensity of the games. It’s something that the Habs need now, but haven’t had in a long while.
One of the other things I didn’t like about the book was how rushed it felt in the end. There were six chapters on his time with the Habs (not including his chapter with the Habs’ AHL team) and six chapters about his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But there was only one chapter about his time with the Boston Bruins, one chapter on his time with the New Jersey Devils (including his Cup win), and two chapters on his time battling cancer. I understand the Habs and the Leafs are the big name teams, but the rest of his career really feels glossed over.
Throw in some spelling mistakes (loonie bin instead of loony bin, for example), and it feels even more amateurish.
The final part that took away from the book for me was that until the chapters dealing with his cancer, Burns doesn’t come across very well. I can understand talking about his faults, but at some point it made me wonder if the author liked Burns (they were friends, but it didn’t read that way). It just felt like there wasn’t a lot of love for Pat Burns.
In the end, there’s just too much for me to overlook. And it’s a shame. I actually feel bad that I didn’t enjoy this book more. Hopefully, some of the mistakes can be corrected for the paperback book, so at least that version can be a little better.
In the meantime, I’ll have to give this book one out of five stars.