Burns misses old teammates but not team

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 11, 2011 - 3:18 AM

The former Wild defenseman is loving life in California, and he is focused on helping the Sharks get back in the playoffs.

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San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, left

Photo: Bret Hartman, Associated Press

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SAN JOSE, CALIF. - Nick Schultz knew he made a mistake from the moment they shook hands.

There are certain people you don't make bets with. Brent Burns is one of them.

Late last season, the tattooed, self-described goofball walked into the Wild locker room, wondered why his defense partner had gone weeks without a haircut and talked him into a monetary wager: First one to cut his hair loses.

Fast-forward a month into this season: Burns' address has changed. He now mans the blue line for the San Jose Sharks and faced his former team for the first time Thursday night.

But after months without a haircut, Burns looks like "Joe Dirt" and Schultz looks "like an absolute meathead," Burns said.

That's why Schultz paid up Wednesday. Knowing Burns would keep the bet going until his hair was at his waist, Schultz has given up, plans to get a haircut "and move on to the next phase of my life."

"He finally got a mirror and looked in it," Burns said. "I've done worse for less [money]."

Wednesday night, Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck wanted to make a similar bet with Burns -- longest to go without trimming his mustache.

Burns declined, saying, "You've got to know the guy, and he's crazier than I am."

Burns had a ball Wednesday night hanging with his old teammates. After spending his entire professional career in the Wild organization, Burns was caught by surprise June 24 when he was traded in the Devin Setoguchi package.

Burns created quite the firestorm Wednesday when he told reporters he hoped the Wild went "0-82." The quote got tweeted, and some Wild fans reacted angrily by hammering Burns' personal Twitter account (@Burnzie88).

"I should just go back to the old clichés all the time," Burns said.

Burns knew the Wild was 8-3-3 heading into Thursday's game, riding a five-game win streak. He knew the Wild was the NHL's second-best team.

The Wild missed the playoffs during Burns' last three years in Minnesota, and frankly, wasn't that good defensively -- at times because of an overly exuberant Burns.

Burns is a competitor.

"It should be anybody," Burns said. "It doesn't matter if they work at Ford. They get fired from Ford, you think they're going to buy a Ford truck anymore? It's the same thing. I got traded. I've got a lot of friends there, it's great to see everybody, you want everybody to do well, but when a team gets rid of you, I think any normal person should have that competitive edge in you.

"You don't want them to do well without you and have people think it's because they got rid of you."

Burns has fallen in love with San Jose, which "has all the things I love," like Lake Tahoe and Napa being driving distance, surfing nearby and lots of areas to bike.

Even before playing a game, Burns signed a five-year, $28.8 million extension. He said it was an easy decision because of the reputation of the Sharks.

He remembered how well the Sharks treated former Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster when he broke his femur in San Jose, and he saw the class Doug Wilson had a week after the trade.

During a tour of HP Pavilion, the Sharks GM introduced Burns to Setoguchi, who was working out in the team gym -- wearing Wild sweats.

"I thought that was really cool," Burns said.

Burns still misses Minnesota. He hasn't yet sold his home. He's having separation anxiety from his snakes and his dogs.

He said Wild players have raved about new coach Mike Yeo's communication, intensity and knowledge of the game. "The day before I got traded, I talked to [Yeo] on the phone for like two hours," Burns said, laughing. "My wife's in the hospital because we just had our son. I got traded, and I'm like, 'Man, two hours I talked on the phone with him!' "

Burns is playing a safer game in San Jose, and juggling daddy duty.

"Those monsters are keeping me busy, that's for sure," Burns said. "It's so stressful babysitting. [My wife, Susan,] gets mad. She says it's not babysitting when it's your kids. My daughter climbs on everything and is an accident waiting to happen. She just wants to hug baby brother all the time, and baby brother doesn't know what's going on."

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