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SAN JOSE -- If Brent Burns wasn’t currently skating on the Sharks’ blue line, he has no doubts about what he would be doing with his life. At an early age, he decided that his adulthood would be consumed by one of two professions.
“I had two dreams as a kid – either to play hockey, or be in the military,” Burns said. “I always wanted to be a Special Forces sniper.”
“I remember my teachers giving me crap all the time, and I’d say, listen, I already know what I’m going to do. I don’t really need algebra. I was either going to play hockey or I was going to be in the military.”
Burns takes his charity work as seriously as his hockey. The NHL recognized that last season, naming him as a finalist for the NHL Foundation Award, presented to the player “who applies the core values of hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community.”
Most recently, Burns was the recipient of the California Commendation Medal, presented by one of the CNG’s generals -- a rare award for a civilian -- in a ceremony that took place after the Sharks’ pregame skate on Saturday.
On Monday, Burns held his second annual “Burnzie’s Buzz Cut,” in order to raise money for Defending the Blue Line, a non-profit that "supports military families by ensuring the children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the game of hockey." Burns got involved with them while still with the Minnesota Wild.
Burns has clearly been able to combine his two passions.
“I was lucky that my first choice kind of worked out. With that, I could kind of live my second dream through my first one, and that’s joining forces with Defending the Blue Line. That has really allowed me to do some amazing things with military guys and get to do some things that civilians don’t get to do,” Burns said.
Burns has been on helicopters, military bases, and tanks, to list a few of his experiences. He enthusiastically relayed a few stories.
“We were in a forest clearing smaller than this [dressing] room. They had two snipers that had been there five or 10 minutes before we got there, and they said ‘can you find these guys?’ Not one guy could find them, and they’re like three feet from you. It was like, ‘holy crap.’”
And another: “I set up a paintball game with all the [Wild] players and whoever wanted to come from the staff and stuff, and we played a bunch of the National Guard guys. That didn’t go well for us,” he said with a laugh.
The genesis of Burns’ interest comes from his family. His grandfather was in World War II, and lived with Burns’ family until passing away. Burns’ uncles were military men, his great-grandfather fought in World War 1, and his wife’s Texas family includes some younger cousins currently in the Navy and the Marines.
Burns got involved from the charity side while still with Minnesota. The Wild wanted to designate a suite for the military, and Burns jumped at the chance to help out any way he could.
That’s continued since he arrived in San Jose. Burns purchased a suite at SAP Center that he donates to families of active or former military members.
“I always think charity stuff, it’s much easier if you’re really invested in it. I don’t think of it as ‘oh [shoot], I’ve got to go do this.’ I actually enjoy doing that, and it makes it easier.”
And, Burns admitted, there are a few perks.
“If I get to go to a base and get to shoot machine guns, it’s not really that hard to get me to do it,” he said.