Whiz Kid on Ice Brent Burns
By Michael McHugh
Pearland/Friendswood Reporter News
If he werent a professional hockey player, hed be playing X-box, hanging with friends, going to the movies or grabbing a good book to read and doing things normal teenagers do.
A young guy at heart, he still does those things, just not as often.
Brent Burns, a 19-year old first round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2003, spent a majority of his rookie year in the NHL. This year, he is learning the defenseman position with the Houston Aeros.
Hes doing a great job, said Tom Lynn, Minnesota Wild assistant general manager and Aeros general manager. Its a position he hasnt played since he was 15. Yet to see him out there, he plays very comfortably.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Ontario native began skating at the age of two and started playing organized hockey at the age of four. His dad, Rob, and mom, Gaby, were great supporters. Dad would tape his games, and after each game they would watch the tapes so he could learn from his mistakes. He credits his father for having a big influence on his hockey career.
Ever since I was a kid, I loved playing hockey, said Burns. I think its a dream of Canadian hockey players to want to play professional hockey in the NHL.
His enjoyed his time in juniors playing with the Junior A Couchiching Terriers in 2001-02. He spent the 2002-03 season in the OHL with the Brampton Battalion finishing with 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points in 68 games, and finishing seventh in OHL rookie scoring. He went on to play 36 games with the Wild, mostly at the wing, scoring his first NHL goal and finishing with six points. In 2004, the Wild lent him to the Canadian National World Junior Team, where Team Canada came in second to Team USA.
When asked what his best and worst hockey moments were, Burns replied, The best was my first and only goal in the NHL. Thats something nobody can take away from me.
The worst was losing last year at Christmas to Team USA at World Juniors. A lot of people counted on us to win that game and we came up short for a period with a couple of bad bounces, and they came back and won, Burns said. That was pretty rough.
Today, Burns is doing what he loves to do best; playing hockey and having fun. He is admired by his teammates and coaches, and is learning all he can from them. He feels every teammate has helped him grow and become a better player.
He considers Rickard Wallin an excellent hockey player, with great hands and the ability to read the play before it happens. Great hockey smarts, said Burns. Wally is really laid back, kind of quiet, and sneaky (laughs). If you had something done to your shoelaces or something, hes the kind of guy who would do it.
Derek Boogaard helps him a lot on the little things about life and knows he can count on him to take care of business.
There are a lot of guys who are on this team who can teach me a lot about hockey. My defense partner, Patrick Traverse tells me a lot of little things that helps my game. Other guys like Todd Reirden know what to do and what it takes, and theyre a great help. Pierre-Marc Bouchard was also in the NHL when he was 18, so he helped me out with a lot of things. I think a lot of the older guys take care of you and make sure you get through alright.
That includes hanging out on the bus with his teammates, listening to their stories and playing jokes on one another. He said there are a lot of funny guys on the team, like Erik Reitz, Stephane Veilleux and Matt Foy.
Hes an off the wall kid, joked the 21-year-old Foy. Hes 19 years old, playing pro hockey, and he is just a fun loving kid. Everyone loves him, but I wouldnt want to room with him on the road. Hes just too loud for me (laughs). Hes a good guy.
He was late for a recent interview because he was learning how to tie his tie. Added Foy, He didnt know you could go in a bank and withdraw money. He only thought you could take it out of an ATM. Thats great.
When hes not at the rink, Burns enjoys paintball, riding his bike, roller blading and reading. In the off season he returns home to Ontario.
Most people dont know that I like to read. They see the big hair and goofy smile and wouldnt think Im the smartest guy, so I tell them I can read, and add and do math and Im smarter than I look, he said laughing.
He has the nickname Burnzie with the Aeros, but in Minnesota they call him Ear Muffs, because being the young guy, they didn't want him to hear any of the stories.
Outside the sport of hockey, he would like to meet cyclist Lance Armstrong. Just knowing his story and what he went through and what hes accomplished inspires him.
I think its pretty unbelievable what hes done, Burns said.
While hockey is his life, he says the hardest part is being away from home.
Ever since I was 15, Ive been away from my parents, he said. I moved away to play junior hockey and even now Im away from my parents and brother (Bradley) and sister (Kari). Its hard being away for the holidays and being away from my parents.
Burns is grateful for every day that he gets to show up at the rink and play the game he loves.
Brent is a very enthusiastic young player, said Aeros head coach Todd McLellan. We often forget that hes 19 years old. He may be one of the youngest players in the league but hes learning a new position as well. Hes learning how to play defense. At times were a little impatient with him. We dont give him room to grow, but when you sit back and realize what hes accomplished to this point and where hes going in his career, hes a pretty outstanding young man.
Currently, Burns has four goals, eight assists and 12 points in 21 games played with the Aeros. His 12 points have him among the AHL among defensemen leaders.
When asked what he would change if he could change one thing about himself, he replied, I really dont have any complaints right now. I think life is pretty good for me, so I would like to keep everything the same.
Not bad for a 19 year old.
Thirteen-year-old Michael McHugh, a student at Friendswood Junior High, writes the Junior Reporter Corner for the Pearland/Friendswood Reporter News. He has a regular feature on www.aeros.com