"The kids get cheated out of a lot of times with their dad," Mr. Burns said. "They were good about it. I see them now more than ever because of the situation. It was tough on them but they handled it well."
Mr. Burns' second-last public appearance came in March when he travelled from his home near Tampa, against the wishes of his doctors, to attend the announcement of plans to build an arena named after him in the Eastern Townships village of Stanstead.
The announcement coincided with a grassroots campaign to have Mr. Burns inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder. A Facebook page drew more than 64,000 members. By June, when the Hall announced the annual inductees, Burns had been nominated and he was expected to be one of those selected.
However, the induction committee inexplicably snubbed him, which created an enormous controversy.
At the ceremony to announce the building of the Pat Burns Arena, Mr. Burns told a gathering that included Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that he did not expect to live long enough to see the arena open in 2011. But, he said, he would be looking down while it was built.
"As for my career," he said at the arena ceremony, "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. I'm very happy that it happened."
A few weeks later, Mr. Burns said he could not imagine himself being anything other than a cop and a coach.
"No, that's all I was," he said.
Pat Burns was born in Montreal on April 4, 1952. He died of lung cancer on Nov. 19, 2010. He is survived by his second wife, Line, his daughter, Maureen, and his son, Jason.