Canadian PM Harper to attend arena announcement for ex-coach Pat Burns

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MONTREAL - Pat Burns will be joined by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a ceremony Friday where plans for a new arena named after the ailing former NHL coach are to be unveiled.

The event is to be held in Stanstead, Que, near the Quebec-Vermont border, where there the 56-year old rink at Stanstead College is to be replaced with a new building called the Pat Burns Arena.

The new facility is expected to be completed in 2011.

Federal and provincial infrastructure programs are each to provide one-third of the funding, with the rest being raised by the Town of Stanstead.

Burns, a Montreal native who has owned property in the area since he coached the defunct Sherbrooke Canadiens of the American Hockey League in the 1980s, has helped the town's fundraising efforts, including appearing in a video appeal for donations.

A statement from the prime minister's office said only that Harper, a noted hockey fan, will attend a "public event" with Burns at the college.

Set to join them are federal Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, local Quebec member of national assembly Pierre Reid, Stanstead mayor Philippe Dutil and other officials, including Sen. Jacques Demers, a former Montreal Canadiens coach like Burns.

Burns - who also coached the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils - is to fly up from his home near Tampa, Fla., for the announcement.

The 58-year-old withdrew as head coach of the Devils in 2004 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. That battle had just ended when he was stricken with liver cancer in 2005. He felt better and was contemplating a return to coaching when the disease struck again - this time lung cancer - in 2009.

The third time, he opted to forego treatment and has reportedly been in declining health, although he continues to do regular hockey commentary in French by telephone on Montreal radio station CKAC.

He was recently in the news when he gave the station details of what Florida police told him about star golfer Tiger Woods' late-night blowup with wife Elin.

Burns, a former police officer in Gatineau, Que., coached 1,019 NHL games from 1988 to 2004 with Montreal, Toronto, Boston and New Jersey, posting a 501-350-175 record. He won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2003 and remains on the Devils staff to handle special assignments, mostly scouting.

The fiery, outspoken Burns is the only three-time winner of the Jack Adams Trophy as top coach in the NHL, winning in 1989 with Montreal, 1993 with Toronto, and 1998 with Boston.

Stanstead is one of 12 Canadian towns and cities in the running for designation by the CBC as Kraft Hockeyville for next season. A shortlist of five municipalities is to be announced Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada.

The winner, to be announced in April, gets $100,000 for arena upgrades while the four other finalists each get $25,000.


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