Column: Fit for a King: Dustin Brown is greater than worthy of a statue

Dustin Brown entered Staples Center/ Arena lots of of occasions throughout his 18-year profession, however his path didn’t take him by Star Plaza and the forest of outsized statues that immortalize a few of Los Angeles’ best athletes.

Not till he retired and commenced utilizing the general public gates this season did he understand the glittery depth of a bronzed lineup that features Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and announcers Chick Hearn and Bob Miller.

“I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” Brown stated. “As a player you never walk in through those entrances.”

That distinguished lineup will develop Saturday when the Kings unveil a statue of Brown — the captain of their two Stanley Cup championship groups and profession chief with 1,296 video games performed — and retire his No. 23 jersey. The child from Ithaca, N.Y., whose speech obstacle contributed to his shyness when he made his Kings debut at 18 in 2003 will stand tall amongst his adopted metropolis’s greatest.

“It’s very surreal. You grow up, you’re not playing for a statue. I just wanted to be a player in the NHL,” he stated. “Looking back at it, I’m extremely proud and extremely honored with everything, but it’s one of those things that you make small decisions, small choices each and every day, and then all of a sudden you’re here. It’s a very proud moment for me, but something I never would have imagined five, 10, 15, 20 years ago.”

Why a statue for somebody so lately retired, a participant whose stats, although among the many high 10 in crew historical past in most key classes, don’t match the exalted stage touched by Hall of Famers Gretzky and Robitaille?

Why not? Brown did one thing Gretzky and Robitaille couldn’t: He gained the Cup for the Kings, fulfilling a dream many longtime followers doubted would come true. He additionally was solely the second American-born captain to carry the Cup, after Dallas’ Derian Hatcher in 1999, and was the franchise chief in hits, with 3,632.

Equally essential is that he led together with his coronary heart whereas selling a brand new model of dedication and camaraderie in a corporation that had lacked management. He embodied the Kings at their greatest, steadying them by the turmoil of a rebuild and changing into an unstoppable drive whereas they reached the promised land and gained the Cup in 2012 and 2014.

“Brownie wasn’t that rah-rah leader, but he was the guy that people would look up to just because of the way he worked, the way he carried himself, how much of a pro he was,” stated Jarret Stoll, the standout third-line heart on these championship groups and now a participant growth coach and broadcaster.

“He was so good at making sure everybody was involved. That’s what you want. You’re talking about culture or team, you don’t have any kind of culture or any kind of team if you’ve got some guys over here, some guys over there, not everybody’s on the same page. If that’s the case, you don’t play for each other. You don’t play hard for each other. You don’t do the things that you need to do for each other to win.”

Read also  LAFC's objective in 2023: Use expertise to repeat as MLS champions

Brown ensured the Kings turned greater than a sum of their excellent components, organizing offseason exercises and in-season gatherings. He roomed with defenseman Drew Doughty early in Doughty’s profession, they usually developed rituals. Doughty obtained Brown’s espresso, ordered further room-service desserts, and adjusted their lodge thermostat simply so. Brown shared his knowledge. Doughty soaked it up.

“With the way he played, he carried how the Kings wanted to be,” Doughty stated. “He was definitely the epitome of how we wanted to play, and he led the charge in that area.

“Not only did I look up to him on the ice and for hockey stuff, but I looked up to him as a father, as a husband. No one does it better than him. He’s just a great person. He’ll be one of my brothers till the day I die, and I miss him a lot.”

Dustin Brown celebrates with Kings teammates Anze Kopitar (11) and Drew Doughty (8) after scoring towards the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 16, 2021.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

A rendition of Brown lifting the Cup seems on a close-by monument to the crew, so the statue ought to function a unique pose. If the folks in control of such issues had a humorousness — and a way of historical past — Brown could be ceaselessly checking Vancouver Canucks ahead Henrik Sedin into submission in Game 3 of their first-round playoff sequence in 2012, a second that set the tone for the Kings’ unbelievable first Cup run.

It had been a tough season. Their rebuild had stalled after two first-round playoff exits, main then-general supervisor Dean Lombardi to fireside coach Terry Murray in December and rent Darryl Sutter. Brown was unnerved by persistent commerce rumors. The Kings made the playoffs because the No. 8 seed within the Westeren Conference however needed to face the No. 1 Canucks, who had compiled the NHL’s high document for the second straight season.

“We’re just excited to be there in a way, but we’re also playing the two-time Presidents’ Trophy winner, a team that had just lost in the Stanley Cup Final. So there was very little pressure on us internally,” Brown stated. “No one gave us a chance, so it made it very easy to go in there and play.”

They gained the primary two video games, in Vancouver. “And 2-0 is great, but people come back from down 2-0, right?” Stoll stated. “But at that point, Game 3, that was just to show, ‘Hey, we’re going to roll over you. This is the type of team we are.’ Brownie was that type of player.”

Read also  Manchester United's Erik ten Hag questions inconsistent VAR

Game 3 was scoreless early within the second interval when Brown leveled Sedin in entrance of the Canucks’ bench. “That was something for us to easily follow, easily just get behind and know that he’s running through the wall for us and we’d better follow that,” Stoll stated. “And it was their best player, so it helped even a little bit more, put more of an exclamation point on it. Brownie was an absolute beast, and that’s what we were following.”

At the time, Brown couldn’t think about the ripples his hit would trigger. “When you look back, clearly, it was a big moment. In the moment you never know,” he stated. “I hear my teammates talk about it and it was like the whole building changed.

“The series wasn’t over in our mind, but in retrospect, that was my coming-out moment, maybe not to Kings fans but to fans of the greater NHL.”

Brown additionally scored the one objective in that sport. The Kings wrapped up the sequence in 5 video games and dashed off with the Cup in a tidy 20 video games, as Brown and Anze Kopitar tied for the playoff scoring lead with 20 factors every.

At the time, Brown wasn’t certain which Sedin twin he had hit, Henrik or Daniel. “I still don’t know,” Brown stated, laughing. “They made a point last year, when I retired, to come over and congratulate me. It was really classy, considering the history that we shared. Our careers paralleled and then just that one moment …”

The Kings’ Cup banner-raising ceremony was delayed by a lockout that shortened the 2012-13 season. Their title protection resulted in a loss to Chicago within the West finals. “It was a five-game series. It could have been a four-game series probably. They were a much better team,” Brown stated. “We just didn’t have the juice that year.”

They had the juice once more in 2014, although that highway was more durable than their first. They went to seven video games three straight occasions, beginning with erasing San Jose’s 3-0 sequence lead within the opening spherical, and beat the New York Rangers in 5 video games within the Final. “That second one really solidified our group, I think, and that we belonged up there,” Brown stated.

“How things transpired after that, obviously there’s regrets on every player. Everyone who was involved. We had a good team, we just couldn’t find a way to keep it rolling. That’s probably the hardest thing in pro sports, learning how to win and keep winning, to be honest with you. It’s really hard.”

Lombardi mortgaged their future in a failed try to win once more, sticking with “heavy” hockey and ignoring the NHL’s shift to hurry and talent. They missed the playoffs in 2015 and gained one playoff sport in 2016. That summer season, in one other dangerous resolution, Lombardi stripped Brown of the captain’s C — which is sort of sacred in hockey — and gave it to Kopitar.

Read also  New Bucs OC Dave Canales trying to construct 'harmful' offense

After sacrificing his physique for the crew, Brown had slowed offensively. Lombardi misinterpret that as Brown shedding credibility amongst his teammates. “Nothing changed for the guys in the room when the captaincy got taken away,” Doughty stated. “Brownie always cared about winning first. He just wanted us to win and wanted all of us to succeed as a team and he was never frustrated when he wasn’t getting points.”

Kopitar instructed Brown he’d nonetheless depend on him, although he knew Brown was upset. “It stung,” Kopitar stated. “But the friendship and relationship that we had was way more important than whoever was wearing the C. Our relationship stayed rock solid and the same.”

Brown continues to be indignant about it. “But it was one of those things where you just learn a lot about yourself and about other people in situations like that and that’s kind of the way I’ve always viewed it,” he stated. “But it was like at the end of the day, I was still a King and I still felt like I had more to give.”

Last season, together with his contract expiring, the concept of spending extra time together with his household started to take priority over prolonging his profession. His and spouse Nicole’s 4 children vary in age from 9 to 14, and he had missed too a lot of their video games and milestones. But he had one final want. “I wanted to go out playing in a game that’s meaningful,” he stated.

Dustin Brown, center, skates away after the final game of his career, May 14, 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta.

Kings ahead Dustin Brown, heart, skates off after the ultimate sport of his profession, a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of a first-round playoff sequence on May 14, 2022.

(Jeff McIntosh/Associated Press)

He achieved that when the Kings made the playoffs, incomes two assists of their seven-game loss to Edmonton. “This team last year, it was a young team, a fun team, kind of learning on the fly,” he stated. “I was content walking away. I played a long, successful career, accomplished a lot.”

While deciding what’s subsequent, he has loved going to Kings video games with out concern of leaving with bruises from opponents’ hits. Besides discovering the Star Plaza statues, he has found the indulgent enjoyable of concession-stand meals. “I had my first Wetzel’s pretzel and I told my wife, ‘This is life-changing,’ ” he stated.

Best of all, retirement means he can chaperone his children to journey hockey tournaments. “It feels like early NHL days for me because traveling, I’ve got a young roommate — not named Drew, but it’s a young roommate,” he stated. “We go to hockey games and come back and just sit in our room and talk.”

Soon, he’ll have the ability to inform his children the tales behind a statue that belongs among the many bronzed greatest and brightest, amongst champions. No one else will put on his No. 23, both, and that’s solely proper. He was the primary Kings captain to carry the Cup. Because of his instance, he gained’t be the final.