Sun, September 28, 2003
Devil 'n' Angels
The strange relationship between former Leafs coach Pat Burns and the biker gang
By Marc Pigeon, Sun Media
MONTREAL -- Among the 595 pieces of evidence that were presented in the murder trial this month of 12 members of the Hells Angels, the name of New Jersey Devils head coach Pat Burns was brought up on three occasions. How did the Stanley Cup-winning coach, a man who spent more than 15 years of his life fighting crime as a police officer in Gatineau, Que., became associated with bikers facing murder charges?
On June 16, officers testified before judge Rejean Paul, and presented evidence they seized on the day of the bikers' arrest, March 28, 2001.
After searching the Ancaster, Ont., home of Hells Angels' Donald "Pup" Stockford of the Nomads chapter of Montreal, OPP officer Scott Andrew Mills discovered two notebooks filled with telephone numbers. In each one were Pat Burns' personal numbers including his home, chalet and pager numbers.
SITTING ON HARLEYS
Sun Media has also learned that other objects connecting Burns to Stockford were seized at the home but were not disclosed in court: A coach's business card as well as autographed photos of Burns with former Toronto Maple Leafs captains Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour, all three on Harley Davidsons.
On June 18, Derrek King, a member of the OPP's organized crime squad which searched the Hamilton home of Hells Angels Nomads member Walter "Nurget" Stadnick on March 28, 2001, was in court. King testified he found in Stadnick's closet a police bulletproof vest as well as a card congratulating him on 18 years with the bikers. Pat Burns' phone numbers were also found in a telephone book in the home.
Stockford and Stadnick face charges of murder, gangsterism and drug trafficking for crimes committed between 1995 and 2001.
Stadnick also faces 13 charges of first-degree murder and an attempted murder charge. Their trials are expected to begin early 2004.
Sun Media has also learned that Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) has also linked Pat Burns to the bikers.
PHOTO USED BY COPS
An audio-visual presentation on bikers for Canadian police included a slide of Burns and former NHL star Raymond Bourque with two men, one of whom is what's known as a "cook" -- a manufacturer of methamphetamine.
Sun Media obtained a copy of the undated photograph taken in a tattoo shop in Massachusetts.
The picture of Burns is used publicly by the police force.
"The photograph shows how Hells Angels use well-known figures to polish their image, to give credibility," said a CISC member, who asked to remain anonymous.
Sun Media has also learned that in 1994 an OPP officer questioned the coach about his ties with Stadnick, whom Burns referred to as "Wally."
That did not stop the 52-year-old Burns from continuing to associate with Stadnick.
Sun Media obtained another photograph, this one showing the popular coach with both Stockford and Stadnick. The photo was taken in April 1997, three years after Burns was questioned by police.
Guy Ouellette, a retired Quebec police sergeant and biker-gang expert, said he wasn't surprised when told about Burns' ties to Stockford and Stadnick.
Ouellette said it had been known for 10 years that Pat Burns had personal ties to the Nomads members, adding he remembers seeing an old photo of Burns with Stadnick on a beach in Jamaica.
Since June, Burns has not responded to interview requests made to the New Jersey Devils public relations department. However, in August he gave an exclusive interview with the weekly publication Allo Police in which he touched on his ties to the bikers.
In the article Burns said, "Yes, I was with the bikers, but these people don't have the words Hells Angels or Bandidos written (on them). Yes, I gave my business card to people without knowing if they were or were not bikers. I don't question each person whose I hand I shake or with whom I am photographed."
The article's writer, Jean Fortier, a member of the coach's close circle of friends, wrote that Burns was "shocked" at the thought people believed he was associated with bikers.
After having worked as a cop for more than 15 years, Burns coached the Montreal Canadiens between 1988 and 1992. Between 1992 and 1996, he coached the Maple Leafs, and won the Stanley Cup last year as coach of the New Jersey Devils.
MONTREAL - The public outcry over the heartless theft of hockey treasures from NHL coach Pat Burns' car after his funeral has produced results. Montreal police say a citizen turned in two suitcases that were taken when thieves smashed into Burns' car in an outdoor parking lot earlier this week. (CP)