Shawn Burr played for the Red Wings from 1986-95. (Associated Press)
When you talked to Shawn Burr, he always had that look in his eyes:
Let’s do something. Let’s have dinner. Let’s pull a prank on somebody. Let’s go golfing.
That never changed, even after Burr was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He died Monday evening, not from leukemia, but from a fall in his St. Clair home.
Burr was 47 and he tried to live every day to its fullest, even when he was in pain.
Hours after Burr died, Dino Ciccarelli, his former linemate with the Red Wings, was at a charity function talking to a cancer patient that may as well have been Burr. The two men lived by the same philosophy.
“I’m talking to this guy and he’s dying of cancer; he doesn’t have much time,” Ciccarelli told The Detroit News on Tuesday morning. “He said, ‘You’ve got 24 hours in a day and you have one minute a day to get upset and you better get over it and enjoy your day.’”
Ciccarelli continued: “Shawn Burr was the same way. He’d be down for one minute. And then he would change the mood and say, ‘Let’s not talk about this. Let’s go golfing.’ Shawn always put it in perspective.”
Shawn Burr came out of Ontario Hockey League as a big-time offensive force. He had 60 goals and 127 points in 59 games for the Kitchener Rangers in 1985-86. The Wings used the seventh pick of the 1984 NHL draft to select him. And many expected him to be a goal scorer on the level of Steve Yzerman. But he adjusted his game.
Although Burr had soft hands and could score (181 NHL career goals) he realized the Red Wings needed toughness on the ice. He protected teammates like a left tackle protecting his quarterback. One of those guys was Ciccarelli, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 after scoring 608 goals in his NHL career. He played in a line with Keith Primeau and Burr, and sometimes Steve Yzerman.
“Shawn would always stick up for me so I could go out and do my thing,” Ciccarelli said. “He would come up to me before games and say, ‘Just play your game. Don’t worry about anybody coming near you.’ He would be there for me. He was a passionate player. He loved to play the game and he loved he physical part of it and would stand up for teammates.”
Ciccarelli knew a part of his Hall of Fame ring belonged to guys like Burr.
“Every time I looked at a photo Burr was in it,” Ciccarelli said. “A big piece of things happened for me because he played with me. Anytime anybody went near me or Stevie, Shawn was always there.”
Burr was like Bob Probert, Kris Draper and Darren McCarty – players who were fine with others getting the glory while they did the dirty work. Burr was a one-man grind line before the real grind line came along.
He was also very competitive. No one took the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals loss to the New Jersey Devils worse than Burr. And there were few happier when the Wings finally won the Cup in 1997, even though his Red Wings career had ended.
His play made him a fan favorite. But Burr carried that legacy off the ice. He coached kids. He smiled for the cameras and he had time for everybody. He was opinionated and tough. He sacrificed for the team. He was not always the perfect teammate because he’d tell you off when he felt he needed to. But he was a great teammate and great member of Detroit’s community.
“He’d go through a wall for you,” Ciccarelli said.
Isn’t that all you can ask of a guy? Burr gave his all.