Brown interview, part 1

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Here’s the first part of a long interview I did with Dustin Brown a few days ago. You’ll note the question, “What would it mean to you to be team captain?” I did the interview before he was announced as captain, so that’s why it’s worded the way it is. Anyway, there will be a big story on Brown in tomorrow’s Daily News, but this is the first part of the long-form interview that I did for the story.

I consider Brown to be a really interesting story on the Kings. He arrived at age 18 and basically sat in the corner and didn’t say anything. Over the last five years he has really evolved, not only as a player but as a man and a teammate. It’s no coincidence that his emergence, in both areas, coincided with the departure of Sean Avery, who really was a miserable teammate to Brown in particular. So I hope you enjoy the first half of the interview with Dustin Brown…

———-

Question: It’s a little startling to think that you were a rookie in 2003. It doesn’t seem possible. Do you remember your first training camp?

BROWN: “A little bit. I remember being overwhelmed at first and then kind of feeling more comfortable as the camp went along. The team then was…it’s so hard to remember the team then. It’s just so different now, but once I made the team…It was a difficult year my first year, in general. I look at this team now, and you’ve got Doughty coming in at (age) 18, and pretty much all our players are under 25. That makes it a little easier, I think, but when I came in, it was (Frolov) and Gleason, and they were both 21 I think, and I was 18, 19, and besides that, everyone was 25 or older, so it was a little different. But we had Luc (Robitaille) and (Ian Laperriere), and especially Lappy, he was a really big help for me my first year.”

Question: I don’t know how deep you want to go into this, but I’ve heard that in your first year, the guys hardly ever invited you to hang out and feel involved. How difficult was that year on you?

BROWN: “It was really difficult, my first year especially. It was a change of lifestyle, really. I was 18. It was just a very unusual situation for me. I would go home after practice and do whatever. The age thing was a big thing for me in my first couple years. One, I wasn’t old enough to do most of the things that the guys were probably doing on nights off. Two, on that team I think the majority of the people were married and had kids, so they had responsibilities elsewhere. You just try to fit in. Maybe you don’t fit in socially, but on the ice you try to fit in. Hockey was the easy part, really.”

Question: I can’t recall, were you living on your own then?

BROWN: “It was a mixture. I started living with a family and then, by November, I started living by myself. December, maybe. Then I lived the rest of the year by myself.”

Question: That must have been quite a transition.

BROWN: “It was different. I lived in Guelph with a billet family, and they were a great family and took care of me, but at the same time I had to fend for myself a lot of the time. But being completely by myself, for one, and then being in this town, that was a little overwhelming. How everything works here is just so different, especially coming from the East Coast. Just how big it is, how many people are here, it’s just a little overwhelming. I had a hard time figuring out where I needed to go for certain things. Stuff that simple was really difficult that year.”

Question: When you look at yourself, can you see how you’ve evolved and how you’ve become maybe more social and more vocal?

BROWN: “Yeah, I definitely do. The same thing happened in junior. I’m one of those people that, until I get to know you really well, I probably won’t come out of my shell. I don’t know how or why I’m that way, but I’m just not that guy who is immediately going to be opening myself up to people who I’m either not comfortable with or don’t know very well. Over the course of the five years I’ve been here, it’s been difficult because every year that I come back, there’s new people. Now it’s a little bit different, because we have a core group of guys that are here and that I’ve known for years, and obviously I’m a little older, which is a big help. To be honest, it’s intimidating to come in when you’re an 18- or 19-year-old and you have guys who are 30, 35 years old. It’s intimidating. So just being around guys who I’ve known for years here has obviously allowed me to open up a little more.”

Question: I don’t think this applies to anyone still here, because it’s just Armstrong and Frolov, but did certain guys on that team make it more difficult for you than it needed to be?

BROWN: “Yeah, definitely. That’s just, I guess, the dynamics of the team during that time. It was difficult, whether I was 18 or 19 and maybe not as social as I could have been. That made it even more difficult, I guess. There’s always — and I shouldn’t say on every team — but there are always teams that have people that are going to make it difficult for other teammates.”

Question: Looking from the outside, that doesn’t make sense to me. Is there any point to it, or was it completely counter-productive to you developing?

BROWN: “I try to take the positives out of everything. Having gone through that experience as an 18-, 19-year-old, I know what it’s like, so if I see that happening around here now, it’s not going to be OK for whoever is doing it, because I know what it feels like to be that 19-year-old and 18-year-old. It’s hard as it is, because you’re so nervous, day in and day out, and then to have someone be on you all the time, it doesn’t help. From that experience, I just take what I felt during that time and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Question: Was there any point for you where it “clicked” on the ice, or was it just a slow process?

BROWN: “Probably a mixture. It was a slow process for the first couple years, and then maybe the first year with (Marc Crawford) I started just not worrying as much, and just playing. Then obviously last year, confidence does wonders in this league. If you believe in yourself, it’s amazing what you can do. The experience thing helps, because you learn every day and every game that you play, you learn something that you didn’t know before. When confidence starts building, it can be scary.”

Question: Looking back, all things considered, did this work out the best way possible for you? You had to go through some things — a tough rookie year, spending the lockout in Manchester — but did it work out for the best in the long term?

BROWN: “I think my first year here was a good learning experience for me personally. It was a tough year. I was injured for a lot of the year, 40 games or whatever. It definitely wasn’t a fun year but it was, I think, a good learning experience for me, maybe to open my eyes a bit about what it takes to stay here and be a team player. Then as bad as the lockout was for a lot of players, I think it was a blessing in disguise for me, because it gave me that year, at the pro level, not to worry about impressing anybody and just focusing on learning the game at this level. It was the AHL, but that year it was a pretty good league, and it gave me that one solid year of playing, day in and day out, at the pro level and on a top line.”

Question: Do you think about what it would mean to be a team captain?

BROWN: “It’s something that I would be thrilled about. It’s a challenge, with such a young team, and I feel I would do good in that role. I think I have the respect of everyone in the room, which wasn’t maybe the case last year. I think that’s just one of those things that comes with time. I had conversations with (Scott Thornton) about it last year. He was at the other end of the spectrum. He had all the respect in the world, from all the players, but not a lot of ice time. I was at the other end of the spectrum, where I had tons of ice time but I kind of had to gain the respect of everyone in the room. I think I did that last year. I think it’s something that obviously is an honor, if it does happen, and something that I’d be real excited about, especially with this team we have here. I think being a leader of this team would be not only fun but also, at the same time, challenging.”

Question: Everybody has different leadership styles and thoughts about what it means to be a leader. What do your see as your philosophy on that?

BROWN: “I’ve never played with these guys, but from what I hear… You look at guys like Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla, I’m sure they say stuff when it needs to be said, but when you look at the way they play, they lead by example. That’s kind of what I pride myself on. Even last year, whether it was the first game of the year or the last game of the year, it was about going out there and showing that you wanted to play. For me, that’s the most important thing, whether there’s a letter on my jersey or not. It’s about showing up every night and showing my teammates that I’m going to be there to battle with them.”

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  • _42

    I really like Brown. My wife and I always talk about his first NHL goal. He looked so happy which made you realize how clammed up he was when you usually saw him and also how fun the game can be even at the stressful level.
    I wonder how much of his leadership and maturation comes from having a wife and a kid…that changes you fast.

    One last thing, Rich, can you say anything more about how Avery made it specifically difficult on Brown? Somehow I didn’t think that kind of high school stuff happened in a pro sports locker room. You’d think one of the older guys would stop it.

    _42

  • Jeff

    Pardon my french Rich, but Avery can Bleep himself. The Team became that much better the day he left. I can never understand why teammates would treat each other that way.

  • Someone

    Seriously, I think Avery’s issues border on clinical. He is not just a prick, he has a real problem that needs to be treated professionally.

  • JonG

    Great interview Rich.

    I see a lot of parallels here with Dave Taylor, who, as many of you will recall, had a very bad stutter for many years. Over time he overcame this problem and emerged as a great leader for the Kings.

  • mrbrett7

    I have always said that DB reminds me of Dave Taylor.

  • Geoff

    Rich,

    You mention in your intro Avery being a horrible team mate to Brown in particular, but unless my reading comprehension is off, I didn’t see anything about this in either portion of the interview. Was this comment based on instances you already knew of, or extrapolated from “off the record” portions of the interview?

  • Gouda

    Hey Rich,

    In the beginning of this piece you say;

    “It’s no coincidence that his (Brown’s) emergence, in both areas, coincided with the departure of Sean Avery, who really was a miserable teammate to Brown in particular.”

    But in the article there is no mention of incident.

    Was that information given off the record?

  • Ryan

    I think Brown will make a tremendous captain for LA. His experiences coming into the league and how it affected him are only going to do wonders for the young LA prospects as they move up into the NHL.

    Having a captain who actually gives a damn and who actually acts like a captain will be a refreshing change of pace from last year.

    On a side note, I’m willing to bet Avery got on Brown’s case for throwing the big hits, but not dropping the gloves more when called out. Just my guess.

  • The Man from UNCLE

    Very solid interview, Rich! I really enjoyed this one.

    Just as note, I don’t see any mention of Avery in either part of the interview…

  • NMKingsFan

    That’s one thing I always liked about Dave Taylor, team first, player second. JonG, I remember Taylor’s stutter also, but he would still appear between periods for interviews (back when the Kings were on TV about 9 times a season, unless you had ONtv)and he did overcome it. Brown signed the long term deal, under market value and want’s to be a King. I hope he’s the captain for the next 10 years at least.

  • Timoteo

    That is a fantastic interview, one of the most revealing re: the play I have read. I follow the Kings pretty closely and was not aware of Brown being ridden by Avery. It’s interesting to hear Brown say he didn’t have the respect of everyone in the room last year, as a fan even though prior to last year his scoring wasn’t great his hitting and work ethic were excellent. Hard to figure why he wouldn’t have that respect in the room.

  • JonG

    NMKingsFan – you’re right, I remember listening to radio interviews with Davey and rooting for him just to make it through. It took a lot of courage on his part. Kudos to Bob Miller and/or Nick Nickson, who treated Davey with the utmost respect during those difficult interviews.

  • Someone

    Actually, it was the late Stu Nahan that really helped Dave (iirc). As I remember it, I think they started by pre-taping interviews with Dave, until he felt comfortable in front of a live camera.

    Class acts both of them.

  • vicarious

    remember Crowe commeing in Mystery Alaska “what happens in the room stay’s in the room.” Not fair to the players to ask for the exact dirt. DB seems to be coming into his own, as a player and a maturing adult. A good pick for captain.

    On the other hand, wld very much like to see Avery instigate a fight with say Ivanans.

    Sean O’Donnelly beat Avery up pretty good one pre-season. Mentioned something about how in the regular season he wld he let whatever Avery did go, but figured, What the hell, its pre-season, and most of the guys in the league wld pay for this opportunity. And proceeded to teach Avery a much needed lesson.

  • jet

    Off topic, but one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Bob Miller was going to do his first interview with Larry Robinson as a King between periods. Nick and Larry conspired prior to the game to have Larry only say yes or no to any of Bob’s questions. As JonG mentioned, Bob was great at making the interviewee sound very personable and intelligent. Bob could probably make Avery sound like someone you would want your daughter to date. Anyway, after about the fifth question, Bob went with “How do you feel about playing with so&so. Larry goes “hmmm, yep” and looks away to try and keep from busting up. Bob figured it out and they all had a great laugh.

  • Storm fan

    The comment regarding Avery hounding Brown (or perceived to be that way). Avery is an ***hole, that is the bottom line. Brown was an awesome player for the Guelph Storm in junior. I think Avery probably saw him as a threat to him – regardless, he is, and continues to be a mouthy ***hole……

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, another thing, I hope someone kicks Avery’s head in early this season.

  • Brian

    I’m extremely happy for Dustin. Getting rid of Avery was one of the best moves the Kings have made. He made it difficult for a young teammate? What a surprise. Thanks for the great article Rich.

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