By Matt Williams
Being called the Bobby Orr of your chosen profession is some hefty praise. You won’t find many folks that wouldn’t agree that retired Arlington High coach Ed Burns, who passed away at age 93 last week, deserved that and more.
“They say when you talk about the greatest hockey players you put Bobby Orr aside and then talk about everyone else. I feel that about Eddie and coaches,” said Paul Costa, who was won of Burns’ assistants near the end of his tenure on the Spy Ponder bench. “There’s Eddie and then there’s everybody else.”
Burns coached Arlington for 50 years, from 1947 to 1997. He won 695 games in that time, retiring as one of the winningest coaches in New England history in any sport. The rink in Arlington was re-christened as Ed Burns Arena in 2010.
His Spy Ponder teams made numerous Super 8 appearances and were considered the standard bearer for public school programs in the Bay State.
“He always wanted to be with the best,” said Costa. “I got there at towards the end of his career, and after all those years you’d think you know everything. He always said you’re never too old to learn. Players would come back and he’d ask them questions about what they did in college, and he’d end up taking things and using them in practice. He was always learning.”
Burns’ teams won five state championships and he’s a member of the Mass. Hockey Hall of Fame. He received the AHCA’s John Mariucci Award in 1989 and a distinguished service award from the MIAA in 1992.
“I loved listening to his hockey stories at our league meetings,” said Peabody coach Mark Leonard, who faced Burns for years in the Greater Boston League. “He was a tremendous coach who always got the most out of his players. He’ll be missed.”
Meticulous detail and a great memory were some of the hallmarks of Burns’ coaching style. He was also tremendously personable.
“He could point to a guy at the rink and he knew who he was, what year he played. He was one of those people that took a genuine interest in everyone he dealt with,” Costa said. “He was an encyclopedia all to himself.”
A graduate of Arlington High, Burns also enjoyed a Hall of Fame career playing sports at Boston College. In addition to his success as a hockey coach, he served as Arlington’s football coach and won 110 games.
“If you could teach a team just one third of all the things Eddie knew, you’d be a tremendous coach,” Costa said.
To see which teams Matt has in the top 10 for each of the six states in New England, head to our High School Power Rankings page.