The “ghost” of Pat Burns came back to haunt social media circles on Friday morning.
Reports suggested Burns, the ex-Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach, had passed away, leaving the hockey world in a state of mourning.
But inaccurate news can spread like lightning these days, and it was quickly revealed he was, actually, alive.
The 58-year-old has been battling serious illness on-and-off since being diagnosed with colon cancer during the 2003-04 season, and was forced to end his coaching career prematurely the next year after developing liver cancer.
According to a blog on thestar.com, former Leafs’ General Manager Cliff Fletcher approached a columnist and broke the news of Burns’s death, citing a friend of his as the source.
The news was then tweeted, leaving media circles in a frenzy.
While it seems like a common practice, tweeting is not always a reliable source of facts, as the hockey writer soon deleted the news from his twitter account once it became apparent the former New Jersey Devils’ head coach was enjoying family time in his native Quebec.
Upon hearing reports of his death, Burns decided to call TSN’s Bob McKenzie to clear the erroneous reports.
“Here we go again,” Burns told TSN. “They’re trying to kill me before I’m dead. I come to Quebec to spend some time with my family and they say I’m dead.
“I’m not dead, far [expletive] from it. They’ve had me dead since June. Tell them I’m alive. Set them straight.”
As Burns’s image of a tough-nosed coach suggests, he told CKAC radio sports host Gabriel Gregoire on Friday he has accepted his health and ‘does not want to be pitied’.
Pity or not, the news was not some elaborate hoax concocted by a prankster, it was, rather another example of how modern social media can supersede proper journalism.
And as for Burns, he was actually out grocery shopping this morning, and is continuing to battle disease, as well as erroneous reports.