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Former Detroit Red Wings Favorite Shawn Burr Was Just as Tough Off the Ice as He Was on It

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Shawn Burr was the quintessential pest. You loved having him on your team, but you couldn't stand him if he was playing against you. He did the dirty work to give time and space to the skill players, and he did it well.

Burr died at the age of 47 after a fall at his home in St. Clair, Mich., that caused massive brain trauma.

Burr was drafted by the Red Wings seventh overall in the 1984 entry draft. He played on the Red Wings from 1984-1995, leaving the season after the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final.

Burr amassed 181 goals and 440 points in 878 NHL games. He played a total of 16 seasons, which also included stops in Tampa Bay and San Jose.

In February 2010, Burr was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He underwent treatment, including chemotherapy. He eventually had a bone marrow transplant operation and went into remission, but the cancer came back.

Cancer is an incredibly difficult thing to overcome. Yes, I realize this isn't breaking news, but having experienced it myself, I have a better understanding of what Burr endured.

There are good days and bad days -- the bad days definitely outnumber the good days. The good days are nice, but the bad days are some of the worst days you'll ever experience. We knew Burr was a tough guy on the ice, and we found out how tough he was off the ice when he was diagnosed.

Beating cancer once is hard enough, but Burr had to endure the disease multiple times. That alone can make the strongest person crumble. Burr took his tough-guy mentality from his days in the NHL and used it in his everyday life.

Unfortunately, Burr wasn't able to help the Red Wings end their Cup drought. Former Red Wings beat writer for the Detroit Free Press Keith Gave said Burr "probably talked his way out of Detroit" after that Stanley Cup Final loss.

Regardless of what went down between Burr and then-coach Scotty Bowman, the important thing is the two sides reconciled their differences, and Burr joined the Red Wings' alumni association.

Today, you see too many players, fans or franchises harboring resentment toward one another. The Chicago Cubs fans against Steve Bartman. Boston Red Sox fans against Bill Buckner. Even Sergei Fedorov had ill feelings toward Scotty Bowman for years after he left.

Life is too short to be caught up in disagreements. Burr realized this and continued to be a great figure in the Detroit hockey community when he founded the Shawn Burr Foundation, which is committed to supporting blood cancer research.

Burr will be sorely missed. He wasn't the flashiest player on the ice, but he worked hard, accepted his job as a role player and did whatever he could to make his teammates smile. He toughed it out on the ice, and put up an even tougher fight after his career ended.

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.

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