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The Malik Report

More memories of Shawn Burr from Keith Gave, and a charitable note

Kris Draper, Dino Ciccarelli, Steve Yzerman and Mitch Albom (times two thanks to a reprint of an 1990 article) are among the Red Wings and pundits who've paid tribute to Shawn Burr over the past 24-or-so hours, and this morning, former Free Press Red Wings writer Keith Gave penned a tribute to Burr...

[W]hile so many recent stories focused on his charismatic personality, let’s not forget that Burr was an important part of the Detroit franchise for many years. He was one of the early building blocks of a franchise that would become a dominant team in the NHL for nearly two decades.

The first player drafted after Mike Ilitch bought the team was Steve Yzerman in 1983. The following year, the Wings used their first-round pick (seventh overall) to take a high-scoring center from Sarnia, Ontario, who scored goals in bunches for the Kitchener Rangers.

Burr never found that scoring touch in the NHL, but he was no slouch. I saw him score a hat trick in Philadelphia, when the Wings rarely won against those vaunted Flyers teams at the Spectrum. He scored hard goals, tough goals, important goals — even when that wasn’t really his job.

“He’s my Dougie Gilmour,” former coach Jacques Demers once said of Burr, high praise to be compared with one of the greatest two-way players in the sport’s history. Demers coached Gilmour in St. Louis, early in Gilmour’s Hall of Fame career, typically matching him against the other team’s top line.

Burr often drew that assignment, too. He drove Wayne Gretzky nuts, shadowing the game’s greatest player and frustrating him unmercifully in those two unlikely appearances in the Western Conference finals series in 1987-88 against Edmonton. And when Burr hit you — putting to good use the extra padding he carried around — you stayed hit. “Hey, I’ve got washboard abs,” Burr often said. “Problem is I’ve got 15 pounds of dirty laundry on ’em.”

I knew Shawn as a teenager. I fished for salmon with him and defenseman Mike O’Connell in Grand Traverse Bay on one of those media tours around the state the Wings used to conduct each year before camp. I watched him grow up, become a husband to Amanda, father to Madison and Mason. I saw him return to the Wings as an inspirational leader of their alumni group.

And he was one of those I thought about on the night of June 7, 1997, when the team he loved finally raised the Stanley Cup once more. Shawn Burr, who was traded after the 1994-95 season, should have been there.

I thought we missed him then. But that was nothing compared to hearing the news Monday evening, when all our laughter died in sorrow.

And the Port Huron Times-Herald penned an editorial paying tribute to Burr's work in Saint Clair County, the Blue Water Area and Southeastern Michigan:

Shawn Burr once played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, but he belonged to the Blue Water Area.

Born in Sarnia, he was a Red Wings forward in the mid-1980s through mid-1990s. Fans loved him for his dedicated work ethic and a sense of humor in which he never took himself too seriously.

When his hockey career ended in 1999, and he became a St. Clair resident in 2000, the Blue Water Area came to know him as a man with a big heart. The Shawn Burr Foundation he created raised more than $1.5 million for local charities, and he was a respected leader of our community.

Burr also was instrumental in bringing the Port Huron IceHawks to town in 2007. His support for hockey and charitable giving made Burr special to our community.

Burr embraced St. Clair County, and he devoted himself to making it better. His death Monday at the age of 47 is a blow to hockey fans and Blue Water Area residents who held him close to their hearts.

Randy Maiers, president of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, knew Burr as someone who put others first.

“I’ll remember Shawn most for how much fun he seemed to have in giving back,” Maiers said.

“Shawn really seemed to enjoy all aspects of his life, but helping others through his foundation and charitable interests made him genuinely happy. His spirit of philanthropy was an inspiration.”

Burr’s foundation was created to support youth-based charities. The highlight was its annual charity golf outing at the former St. Clair River Country Club — now the St. Clair Golf Club. Former professional athletes from Detroit participated, and several thousand dollars were raised for area charities.

When Burr was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2011, his foundation concentrated on supporting cancer research. He died Monday after falling in his St. Clair home and suffering head trauma.

It will take a long time to get over his death. But Shawn Burr will never be forgotten.

As noted on Tuesday, Burr's funeral arrangements will remain private, so if you want to pay tribute to the man, the Shawn Burr Foundation's webpage offers a simple message and a Paypal button:

It is with a heavy heart that we report Shawn Burr passed away August 5, 2013.  Funeral arrangements are private but a donation may be made through the donate button on this page or checks may be mailed to:

Shawn Burr Foundation
P.O. Box 610812
Port Huron, MI 48061—0812

Thank you for your support.
 

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.