Hockey lost one of its heroes Sunday with the news that longtime Arlington High School coach Ed Burns died at the age of 93.
“It’s a sad day in Arlington for sure,” said current Arlington coach John Messuri, who played for Burns and graduated from Arlington in 1985. “He has a special place in everyone’s heart and not just in Arlington. It was an annual event to go see Ed and his teams at the Garden. It was almost part of the fabric of New England. “
Burns was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame (1976), the Massachusetts Football Hall of Fame (1979), the National High School Sports Hall of Fame (1992), and he was in the first class of the Arlington High School Hall of Fame (1991).
He was recognized at the Boston Garden 60th anniversary celebration (1988), and was given the American Hockey Coaches Association John Mariucci Award (1989), the Hartford Whalers Outstanding Service Award (1990), and the MIAA Distinguished Service Award (1992).
Burns was born in Lexington Nov. 20, 1920. His family moved to Arlington, where he became a three-sport star at Arlington High. He was the only sophomore on the 1937 Arlington varsity football team and was the team’s captain his senior year. He also played three years of varsity hockey. In the spring, he split his time between baseball and swimming.
After graduation, he attended prep school before enrolling at Boston College. He played three sports at the Heights and in 1987 was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame. His college success was such that he was drafted by both the Pittsburgh Steelers in football and Philadelphia Phillies in baseball.
World War II interrupted his athletic playing career, but it couldn’t stop his coaching career. His first job was 1947 at Taunton High as a football assistant, but within three weeks he took a similar position at Niagara University. When Burns received word that Charlie Downs was stepping down as head hockey coach at Arlington, he immediately applied for and got that job for the 1947-48 season. His first win came Dec. 16, 1947, a 7-0 victory over Rindge.
Burns became an assistant football coach at Arlington in 1949 and then head coach in 1954. When Burns finally retired in 1997, he had coached 1,108 games and won 805 of them. Of the win total, 695 came on the ice. In 50 seasons of coaching hockey, he had just one losing season and won five state titles.
Information from the 1997 “The Eddie Burns Dinner’’ program was used in this story.