One of the better off-ice moves the Red Wings ever made was pairing newly arrived Sergei Fedorov with Shawn Burr at training camp in the fall of 1990.

A crash course in English was exactly what was needed for Fedorov who spoke no English (and didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor) when he left the Soviet national team for Detroit. And there was no better teacher than one of the great and comical motormouths in the NHL.

No one talked a better game on or off the ice than Shawn Burr who battled cancer with the same relentless passion grace and humor with which he lived his life and played the game he loved. Burr 47 died Monday from brain trauma after a fall in his home.

But while 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.”