The maiden voyage of this blog was a grand success. Exploring the ebbs and flows of Jagr’s mullet over the course of his career was a lot of fun, and people seemed to enjoy it as it made waves across hockey’s internet community. However, this success also brought a slew of doubts in to my own mind. Had I set the bar too high? How could I pivot from such a niche focus and create new, original content. I couldn’t just become the guy who looks at changes in players’ hair throughout their careers. That shtick would get old quickly. Despite this, something stuck out to me when I rediscovered the wildly popular ‘Evolution of Brent Burns’ picture that makes its way across hockey Twitter every now and then.
This is no common aging curve. There are plenty of expected changes that occur when people see a few too many winters. Maybe they grow a beard, maybe they change their hair and it becomes a bit more grizzled, maybe we start to see a few wrinkles creep their way onto their face. But the effects we see with Brent Burns are far more drastic than this. Every few years, it seems like Brent Burns morphs into a completely different human.
How does Burns’ appearance continuously shift so radically? Is he a natural anomaly? Is he hiding something? Well, I have come up with my own crackpot theory.
If possible, please play this as you read the remainder of this post:
Perhaps ‘Brent Burns’ is not one individual whose appearance mysteriously changes every few years. Perhaps multiple individuals have filled the role of Brent Burns throughout the entity’s NHL career.
How could this be possible, you may be wondering. Why on Earth would an NHL player be replaced with another individual under the same name? My explanation is that ‘Brent Burns’ is actually an alias created by the United States Federal Witness Protection Program.
The logistics are quite simple. When an individual enters Witness Protection and is able to check off the ‘some experience with the sport of hockey’ box of the application, the government may choose to enter him into the Brent Burns Program. The individual is then given training to learn to play a similar style to Burns. Once the new Brent Burns is ready, the existing one is dispatched of, or ‘burned’, hence the moniker ‘Burns’. Where the ‘Brent’ part of the name comes from is less clear, but I’d be willing to wager that the first two letters of the name stand for “Body replacement.”
Evidence toward this theory is admittedly sparse. This is to be expected, as the government would likely keep a program like this under heavy wraps. If the program was to be exposed, the National Hockey League, the sport of hockey, and the security of the United States could be jeopardized. In fact, I may be endangering myself by attempting to bring this conspiracy to the forefront.
However, since I am a man of the people, I am willing to risk this personal endangerment to expose the truth. The reality is that if you really put his career under the microscope, there is indeed some evidence that points to the existence of the Brent Burns Program. Burns has altered his style of play throughout his career as much as any player in the history of the NHL. We’ve seen Burns shift from defense to forward, and vice versa, multiple times in his career. Perhaps these were not coaches’ attempts to maximize Burns’ output and utility to the team, as they were broadcasted to be, but actually government mandated changes to account for new Brent Burns who were struggling to adapt to the playing style of the previous Burns. We’ve seen him go from a utility role player to one of the league’s elite defensemen. Was this due to the skill development that comes with gaining experience at the game’s highest level, or an existing Brent Burns being replaced by a more skilled Brent Burns? Moreover, Burns has had some injury-riddled stints throughout his career. It’s possible that Burns is simply an extremely resilient player, consistently coming back from injury to establish himself as one of the league’s top talents. However, it could be that during a few transitional periods between different Brent Burns, the government staged injuries to make the entry of a new Burns seem more plausible. If the hockey world caught wind of a change in Burns’ style of play, it could be easily chalked up to injury instead something deeper and more mysterious.
To add some personal touch to the Brent Burns Conspiracy, I have generated back stories for a few different individuals that I believe have each been a part of the Brent Burns Program. Though these backstories are mostly, if not entirely, products of my imagination, I believe that given my apt ability to judge books by their covers, they can be accepted as mostly accurate.
Brock Broderson (2005)
Brock Broderson appears to have been the first individual to spend a full season in the Brent Burns program. Interestingly, Broderson’s season in the NHL was not his first rodeo in the sporting world. The young Broderson was actually a rising star in the Southern California underground skateboarding community. Broderson was an innocent jock, simply joining the underground community to find a way to make some extra cash from his innate talent on the board. Unfortunately, as he rose up the ranks and began to establish himself as a legitimate force, he was exposed to the true corruption that went on behind the scenes. Brock began to realize that the mob was heavily invested in underground boarding. He was able to fly under the radar for a while, as the mob was only throwing the big money at the most important competitions. However, this came to an end when Brock entered the Underground Halfpipe Championship of the World. As a young rising star, Brock was heavily favored. The night before the culminating moment of his skateboarding career, he was approached by a mob boss and commanded to throw the event. Though not directly threatened, Brock knew what usually became of those who disobeyed the mob. Either through a sense of honor or the simple stubbornness of youth, Broderson refused. He won the event, took his winnings money, and began his life on the run. After a few months, the government was able to track him down and offered to enter him into the Burns Program in exchange for the inside scoop on all that he had seen and experienced during his life underground.
Derek McBride (2006)
Derek McBride saw humble beginnings in a small town in the Midwest. Once he reached high school, however, Derek became a big fish in a little pond, becoming the star player on the school’s hockey team and using his charm and devilish good looks to become the most popular kid in school. Perhaps it was this small taste of stardom that spurred him to drop everything after he graduated and move to Hollywood seeking fame. Unfortunately for Derek, life wouldn’t come as easy as it did for him in his quiet hometown. Living out of his car, Derek attempted failed audition after failed audition. Finally, at least Derek thought, his luck turned around. He was approached by a mysterious man who claimed he had a role for Derek, but for his own good he could not tell him the specifics. Derek knew the gig seemed shady, but needing money and still having a clinging desperation for fame, Derek decided to take the man up on his offer. Initially things seemed decent. Though he wasn’t sure what the scenes he was shooting were being used for, he was happy to have a steady gig and an income. Unfortunately, to his dismay, as Derek shot more and more scenes for this mysterious man, he got a clearer image of the project they were being used to produce. Derek McBride was assisting with the production of mafia training videos, contributing to America’s rampant organized crime epidemic. Though gripped with guilt and self loathing, McBride continued to shoot scenes for this mysterious man, fearing the repricussions if he was to back out. Fortunately for him, the government was able to track him down. As they did with the aforementioned Brock Broderson, the government offered to enter him into the Burns Program in exchange for information about the project he was helping produce. Seeing a ticket out of the cruel life he had been stuck in, McBride graciously accepted the offer.
Subject Zero (2008)
In my investigation into the existence of the Brent Burns Program, one participant stuck out to me as having the most captivating, intriguing, and overall baffling tenure as Brent Burns. I have coined this individual ‘Subject Zero.’ I was unable to collect any information regarding Subject Zero’s life prior to entering the Burns Program. He has a common look to him, so I assume he lived a somewhat common life. What he got into that required him to give up everything and join the Burns Program is beyond my knowledge. What stands out with Subject Zero is the shady and mysterious circumstances of his brief tenure in the Program. During the 2007-08 season, ‘Brent Burns’ signed a four year contract extension, his first contract after his rookie deal. This may have indicated that the trial period of the Burns Program was over. Pleased with the Program’s success, the government was ready to commit to continuing it for at least another four years. Thus, 2008-09 was the Program’s first full year of total government commitment. It did not go smoothly. Throughout the year, ‘Burns’ repeatedly shifted between defense and forward, struggling to find identity before missing the final portion of the season due to a concussion. The government may have been holding the Burns Program to a higher standard now that they had officially committed to it. The season ending concussion may have been Uncle Sam finally pulling the plug on Subject Zero, unhappy with his inability maintain a steady identity as Brent Burns and avoid arousing any suspicion surrounding the truth of the Program. Adding to the mystery is the assertion of Burns’ agent that the concussion had initially been misdiagnosed as sinusitis. Perhaps his agent knew there were fishy circumstances surrounding the injury, and made this claim as a way to wrap his head around all the confusion. Or perhaps he was less innocent, and made the claim at the behest of the government to throw the public off the scent of the truth. Regardless, Burns allegedly underwent offseason shoulder surgery after this roller coaster of a season, clearly marking the end of the Subject Zero experiment.
The Return of Derek McBride (2011)
I have previously mentioned that part of the Brent Burns Program involves dispatching of, or ‘burning’, the existing Brent Burns in order to make room for new entrants into the Program. My language was intentionally vague. The truth is, despite my extensive research, I do not know what happens once an individual is burned, where they go, and how their life carries on (if at all). I only know that once someone is burned, they disappear from the public eye. The only light that has been shed on what happens after a person is burned is the apparent reemergence of Derek McBride that occurred in 2011. Though it may seem like a relief to know that a replaced Brent Burns is not completely erased from existence, the possibilities remain chilling. If dispatched Brent Burns are not completely eliminated, what is happening to them? Where do they go? How do they disappear, and what set of circumstances calls for reemergence? Total elimination would be a gruesome practice, yet there is a certain comfort in the finality of it. Knowing that this is not the case creates a haunting sense of mystery as the mind is able to theorize an infinite array of grim possibilities.
Jason Wolfesblud (2013-Present)
Jason Wolfesblud was a science experiment gone wrong. Obsessed with attempting to create the DNA makeup of a superhuman, a scientist had used Wolfesblud as a subject in his experiments to merge the DNA of a wolf and a human to create the most physically strong breed of humans to ever exist. No one knows why Wolfesblud agreed to become a human subject, but most believe that it is simply because he viewed himself as a fit on account of his last name. The experiments almost went too right, as the scientist was eventually able to create what was essentially a modern day werewolf. Initially, the scientist marveled at what he had created, but fear gripped him as he contemplated what could happen if this man/creature was turned loose upon society. Finally, he decided it would be best to turn him in to the government. Wanting to further observe the potential of Wolfesblud, the government decided to enter him into the Burns Program to observe his physical capabilities in the controlled environment of the NHL. It’s clear that these capabilities are massive, as Wolfesblud has established Brent Burns as an elite NHL defenseman, and his body of work includes a Norris Trophy in 2016. Wolfesblud has had a longer tenure as Brent Burns than any other participant in the Program. There could be a few different reasons for this. It’s possible that another individual who is suitable to enter the Brent Burns Program has simply not emerged in the last few years. Another possibility is that the government is so intrigued by Wolfesblud’s potential that they would rather observe him than pass the Brent Burns baton on to another qualified party. Perhaps Wolfesblud has given Brent Burns such a reputation that it is now impossible to replicate his on ice performance, and thus instating another Brent Burns would jeopardize the secrecy of the program. Whatever the reasoning, there’s one thing we know for certain: the man who takes the ice every night and wears number 88 for the San Jose Sharks is a government sponsored werewolf.
As I said before, it is entirely possible that by bringing a top secret government program to light, I may be placing myself in danger. However, I have chosen to share my findings with you anyway. What you choose to do with this information is your choice and your’s only. I do not wish to undermine the accomplishments of the Brock Brodersons, Derek McBrides, Subject Zeroes, and Jason Wolfesbluds of the world. Rather, I simply want to demonstrate to people that things are not always as they seem. Secrets lurk around every corner, and seeking and acting upon the truth will eventually lead to greater fulfillment than the comfort zone of willful ignorance.