Snakes, tattoos and Chewbacca just part of Brent Burns' interesting life

ByTal Pinchevsky ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

You've been traded halfway across the country and you're scrambling to figure out what to do with the roughly 250-300 pythons, reptiles and other assorted critters living in your house. And, just to keep things interesting, your first child was born less than a week ago.

These are "Brent Burns problems."

Fortunately, the San Jose Sharks' star defenseman had someone who could adopt all those creatures following his 2011 trade from the Minnesota Wild. That was his friend Brian Barczyk, one of the world's foremost snake handlers and the star of "Venom Hunters" on Discovery Channel, a show Burns appeared on Wednesday night.

Just another week in the life of the NHL's most interesting man.

"Lots is going on every week in our lives," said Burns, 30.

An in-depth conversation with Burns reveals what much of the hockey world already knows: There's a lot more to him than hockey. And reptiles. How would you describe your personality?

Brent Burns: I've always had that passion for hockey. I've got a lot of passions away from the ice too, that take up a lot of time. I always hear the words "crazy" and "different." That's probably pretty true. Life is pretty crazy. I love a lot of things. Camping, surfing, taking the kids around in the RV. That would be the Sprinter van your teammates talk about?

Burns: That's my everyday vehicle. It seats seven and sleeps six. A tight squeeze. What's with the reptiles?

Burns: A guy that goes on the road can't have a dog, it's too hard. He'd have to have someone look after the dog every road trip. Reptiles have to be one of the best pets to have. You still have your pet to calm you down after a game. It was perfect for me at the time. Speaking of hobbies, you're also a big fan of UFC.

Burns: I think they're some of the best athletes in the world. Conor McGregor is definitely one of my favorites. I met Conor quickly in Vegas when I was there for the NHL awards. Watched him train. It was pretty amazing. He's probably one of the best athletes I've ever seen in person. The things he can do, his strength, his flexibility, everything. The mind aspect, too. The way he thinks and speaks. It's what makes him the best MMA fighter in the world now.'s also the tattoos. How many do you have?

Burns: I don't know the number. First one I got was a Canadian flag with a hockey stick. I was 11 years old, my parents took me. My dad was going to get one and asked me if I wanted to go get one. He said, "As long as it's not a boneheaded idea, I'll let you do it." It was a pretty cool thing to get tattooed with your dad. It definitely seems like when you get into something, you go all in.

Burns: I get into things pretty hardcore. All my hobbies, it pretty much happens that way. There's always things popping up. You're also very active in causes involving the military. Where did that start?

Burns: My dad's dad lived with us when I was growing up. He was a World War II vet. He grew up in a pretty amazing generation. Listening to stories and reading books and seeing some of the clothes and things he brought back, those are lasting memories that definitely will help shape me. Anything you still want to try that you haven't been able to do?

Burns: There are a lot of things I've got left to do. I would want to be in the military. I don't know how that would work. We'll see what happens after hockey. With the European guys that we play with, they have the mandatory stuff where they have to be in the military. I think it's great for a country, for the pride of a country. I have so much respect for those people. I always wanted to do it. made quite an entrance at the All-Star Game when you wore your Chewbacca mask. Where did that come from?

Burns: We had an ugly Christmas sweater party. I was looking for an ugly Christmas sweater and there was a lot of Star Wars stuff -- you know how you look at one thing online and it will show you 10 other things? I bought the full body [Chewbacca] suit and thought, "Oh, my god, this is unreal." So, I wore the full body suit with my ugly Christmas sweater on top. Whose idea was it to wear it at the All-Star Game?

Burns: It might have been my wife's idea. WithJohn [Scott]being captain, I was trying to think of ideas before I left. I actually forgot it and Pav [Joe Pavelski] was on a later flight, so we had a friend pick it up and bring it to Pav's house and Pav brought it for me. The mask fit perfectly with your beard. How often do you trim it? The beard, that is.

Burns: I actually trimmed it right before the All-Star Game. I got a haircut, too, so I only looked like half a Chewbacca. Beards can be pretty coarse but mine is pretty fine. I use a lot of the oils and stuff. You've got to maintain it. You've got to keep that thing clean. We shaved it twice for charity and people were getting mad at me for shaving it off and saying they were going to offer me more money to keep it. It became one of those things where I just kept it going.'re also missing three front teeth but refuse to wear false teeth. Why is that?

Burns: You get that big retainer thing, you lose it, it breaks. You can't eat or drink with it, anyway. I put it in and it's harder to talk. It's just more of a pain to have it around. The vanity part I don't really care about, to be honest. It's been at least three years since I wore it.