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Continued: Brent Burns, Wild thing

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

"I only dropped the gloves because a guy in the second row yelled, 'Fight him! Fight him!'" Burns said.

Asked if he watches the fights on YouTube, Burns said: "Oh, yeah, I check them out. My best buddy back home, we call him Johnny Drama, is always chirping me about not fighting. So I called him right away and said, 'Get on YouTube!' I should have done this my first year. It took me four years to drop my purse. I'm not scared of it anymore."

The brouhahas just added to the high regard fans have for him.

"He's so modest, but I see it in the stands," Susan said. "I'll be like, 'Did you see all the Burns jerseys in the stands and did you hear all the people yelling to get Burnzie on the ice?' He'll be like, 'Yeah, right.'"

Still, it's safe to say coach Jacques Lemaire would rather see Burns on the ice than in the penalty box. Slow to develop because the Wild bounced him between wing and the blue line, Burns is finally cemented on the blue line, and there are high expectations of him after coming into his own last season (seven goals, plus-16).

With size, speed, range, hockey sense and a sizzling wrist shot, Burns has the ability to be a top defenseman for years.

"My first couple years, it was, 'I hope I'm not minus-2 tonight,'" Burns said. "Now, it's, 'I'm going to smoke that guy, play a good game and make a difference.' Before it was like, 'Maybe I'll get to line up against [Mark] Messier today.' Now, it's, 'I'm going to take the puck off Messier and not give him anything.'

"I think it's just growing as a player and a person. Butchy [Bouchard] was a [productive] player right away at a young age. Me and Butchy, we're really good friends but totally different. I'm goofier. He's really organized. He would never forget anything. I miss appointments all the time. Now I'm getting more like that. It's business now."

And still, with a smile on his face. Nobody has more fun at the rink. In a lot of ways, Burns is the electricity in the locker room, reminding the veterans that it's a whole lot more fun playing hockey for a living than punching a time clock every day.

"There's something about that breed," Rolston said. "Joe Thornton had it, too. They're happy-go-lucky guys. You can call them ditsy almost. It's a good way to be in this sport because a lot of times you put too much pressure on yourself and it's a detriment.

"But Burnzie is a guy that loves coming to the rink, a guy always joking around in the locker room, a guy always having fun. And even cooler, he's making some big strides.

"I believe he has the tools to be a Norris Trophy candidate, I really do, with a little more maturity. If he can put it all together, and he will, I believe he's that good."

Michael Russo • mrusso@startribune.com

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