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Continued: Brent Burns, Wild thing

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 15, 2007 - 9:39 PM

Said Burns, "Ryder and Brody [Rolston's 5- and 4-year-olds] will lay on the bed and watch the fish for hours."

A tribute in ink to Granddad

Maybe Burns was born to play hockey. His mother, Gaby, went into labor with him at a hockey rink in Ajax, Ontario. The oldest of three siblings (20-year-old sister Kori and 18-year-old brother Brad), Burns grew up in Lindsay before moving to Barrie, where he had three paper routes delivering the Toronto Sun.

One of the most influential people in Burns' life was his grandfather Patrick, who lived with the family for 23 years.

"It was a package deal," Burns' mom said, chuckling. "I got the husband and the father-in-law."

Patrick, who died in 1998, was an artilleryman in World War II and used to baby-sit Kori and Brad when Brent had to be taken to his many hockey practices and games. But a wide-eyed Burns couldn't wait to get home, where he'd plead for more stories from Grandpa.

"Granddad had his chair, a real soft, cushy chair, and he used to sit there and tell the boys war stories all the time," Gaby said. "In Grade 8, Brent wrote a war story his grandfather told him. The teacher was so moved by it, she phoned and invited Granddad to school to honor him at a Remembrance Day service. The teacher read Brent's story. It was Granddad's last Remembrance Day.

"For a kid his age to move a teacher like that, I was really impressed, and I know it meant a lot to Granddad."

To honor their grandfather, Brent and Brad got identical tattoos on their left arms. It features a cross with a Canadian military helmet on top and the zodiac sign for Pisces in the middle. In the background is a Bofor artillery gun over the hills of Sicily. Underneath reads, "Patrick Joseph Burns, 1911-1998."You don't think too many kids would have a relationship that strong with their grandfather that they'd want to honor him in a permanent way," Gaby said.

Tattoos have always meant a lot to Burns. His father took him for his first at age 11 -- a Canadian flag and a hockey stick on his right arm. This summer, Burns got a massive, colorful dragon on his left thigh and a huge tattoo on his back with a picture of his pets with the word "Wild" in green script.

"I'm getting a lot of heat from [teammates]: 'What if you're traded?'" Burns said. "But first it's a double meaning because it has to do with my love for wildlife and my pets. But the Wild is my first NHL team. That's huge. I've always wanted to play in the NHL, and they gave me the chance."

In fact, on his father's back is a tattoo of the "Born to Be Wild" comet. Inside the Wild logo reads, "Brent Burns, First Round, 20th Overall, 2003."We're a little proud, eh?" Gaby said.

At long last, fists of fury

For years, Burns' father told him it was time to fight. Burns' buddies back home always made fun of him for not dropping his gloves.

So imagine their shock when in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs in Anaheim, Burns skated to Keith Carney's defense and wound up dropping the gloves with forward Chris Kunitz.

Back in Woodbury, Burns' girlfriend watched on TV with Burns' mom, Burns' former Minnesota billet and Pierre-Marc Bouchard's girlfriend.

"We jumped on the coffee table screaming," Susan said. "My cell phone started ringing, everyone was calling -- all the girlfriends, my parents, saying, 'Oh my God, what is he doing?' My first reaction was, 'No, cut it out, Brent.' Brent's mom's first reaction was, 'Kill him!'"

Two games later in the Wild's only victory, Burns delighted a sold-out Xcel Energy Center by pummeling Corey Perry.

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