It was interesting to watch Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, my former neighbour, during the Sens game the other night. He looked like something the cat dragged in, as my mother used to say. And that’s without being able to see the tattoos that he’s covered himself with.
He used to live around the corner from us in Lindsay, Ontario and he and his father would sometimes call on me to go roller-blading around the neighbourhood with them. This was back before the turn of the millennium when my own kids were still too young to accompany us. In his first few years of hockey Brent played goaltender, the same as his dad Rob.
Rob and Gabby (Gabriela) were his parents. They were from Ajax and he was a butcher and she drove a school bus. As well, Brent’s grandparents, Karlheinz and Trudy lived behind us and used to help me with our landscaping. Karlheinz was very European in his direct manner of speaking and would tell me right after I finished staining our deck that he didn’t like the colour that I had chosen. Another time when we were out of the country for an extended period he threw our kids’ swing set in the garbage, explaining to me when I wondered what had happened that it was an eyesore. On the plus side, however, he did have a very impressive collection of tools which he would very generously bring over whenever there was work to be done, and we would always have (a lot) of beer when we were finished. I would get a big kick out of the clean-up because when we were finished Karlheinz would always signal to his wife Trudy to pick up all the empties and she never seemed to mind. I found that very impressive and tried it out with my own wife Brenda, but my own hand signals, despite given with the most determined expressions, never had any effect at all.
It was when Brent was about ten years old that Rob informed me that they had decided to move to Barrie, Ontario where Brent would receive better coaching, competition and scouting closer to Toronto, in order to advance his hockey career. I didn’t say much, except maybe that Brent would be lucky to make a Junior B team and I was disappointed to see them leave. I suspected that the move was as much to escape Karlheinz’s domination as it was to advance Brent’s hockey career, but the move worked out famously on both counts. It also humbled me somewhat as to my own ability to predict future hockey talent.
But it never stopped me from offering my opinion.