Brandon Burlon isn’t the type of guy who needs to watch his weight, but he’s on the baby-food diet anyway.
And though he’s developed new eating habits, they haven’t changed by choice.
After the junior defenseman helped the Michigan hockey team dispose of Bowling Green in the second round of the CCHA Tournament, he received penicillin for what was believed to be strep throat. The throat swelling didn’t stop, forcing Burlon to visit the hospital a couple times the next week. While there, doctors reevaluated his situation.
The final diagnosis was esophagitis, an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus. Its biggest symptom? Difficulty swallowing.
“The last count was nine days that I didn’t take food in,” Burlon said. “It was just a lot of water a little bit at a time, some shakes here and there if I could muster them down. I started off eating apple sauce and puréed soup, mixing it with water. I graduated to yogurt, but I was eating baby food at one point just to get some nutrients in me.”
Burlon missed the CCHA semifinals in Detroit, the consolation game and both of the Wolverines’ wins in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis. He didn’t make either trip.
And though losing weight wasn’t his goal, the baby-food diet worked — Burlon lost 17 pounds.
Now, three days away from playing No. 1 North Dakota in the Frozen Four, Burlon is back — at least in practice. He skated in practice all last week and is slowly gaining back the weight he lost.
But Michigan coach Red Berenson was not committed at the beginning of last weel on allowing Burlon to play, saying “we’ll see how he comes along.” On Monday, the tune wasn’t any different. After practice, Berenson said he was still unsure whether Burlon would play or not.
“Typically, you’d rather play a junior than a freshman in a situation like this if he’s a good player,” Berenson said. “So we have to make sure he’s up to snuff before we decide whether he’s going to play or not.”
The New Jersey Devils draft pick has five goals and 13 assists this season to go along with a plus 14 rating. He was paired with sophomore Lee Moffie before his injury, but practiced with junior Greg Pateryn last week. Wherever he plays, he provides veteran leadership on a defensive unit that has three freshmen and just one senior.
With the big and fast North Dakota forecheck likely to cause havoc on the young Michigan defensemen in the Wolverine zone all game, Michigan will need Burlon’s ability to get the puck out with both his crisp passes and his feet.
“He’s played in these games — not (the) Frozen Four — but he went through this last year and the year before, playing in tournament games,” Berenson said. “He can add offense and give us good experience on defense as well.”
When Burlon comes back from the Frozen Four, nobody knows if he’ll have a championship trophy in his bag. But there’s one thing he most definitely won’t have in there — a Gerber’s jar.