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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
Thanks, but no thanks.

That was the answer Chris Brown always gave football coaches, potential teammates and friends in Texas when they asked him to give up playing hockey and commit to the gridiron on a full-time basis.

The Coyotes are glad Brown, a part-time wide receiver in grades 7-9, stuck with hockey and played it exclusively the past several years. The Coyotes rewarded the winger’s dedication and commitment to the sport by making him the 36th overall pick at last month’s NHL Entry Draft.

“All of my friends were playing football and it was pretty much the thing to do in Texas,” Brown said during a break in last week’s prospect development camp. “I missed a ton of football practices and football games for hockey. But I just never considered quitting hockey for football. Hockey is something that I loved and still love. It’s my passion.”

Brown, 18, stands 6-feet-2 and weighs 191 pounds. His goal is to become a premiere NHL power forward. After watching him play at the camp for four days, Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said he thinks Brown is on his way.

“Chris comes to us as advertised,” Maloney said last week. “You know you watch him and when you first see him he looks a little rough skill-wise, but then you see him play and he’s very strong with the stick and has a heavy shot. What impresses me is he just goes to the net. He’s run over the goalies four or five times here and I think that’s just Chris. He charges the net and we really don’t have anybody like him in our prospect system, you know, a guy that just charges the net hard and then might stay around and have a conversation about it if anybody wants to talk about it… he’s still young and he’s evolving, but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of Chris at this camp.”

The Coyotes staged the on-ice portion of their prospect development camp at Desert Schools Coyotes Center n Peoria. Unlike many of his camp teammates, Brown knew that rink well thanks to his days playing bantam hockey in the Rocky Mountain District. Still, skating on the surface for the first time as a member of the Coyotes organization was an extraordinary experience.

“It’s so surreal,” Brown said. “It’s still kind of just soaking in. The draft was more than I ever expected, and getting to come here for the camp and putting on the jersey is a great honor.”

Brown grew up in Flower Mound, Texas, about 23 miles northwest of Dallas. He said despite being in the middle of football country, it wasn’t too hard to find a hockey surface to play on.

“It’s pretty accessible there,” Brown said. “I had a lot of good coaches and there were a lot of rinks. Hockey was growing there at the time and still is growing, obviously not at the point where it is up in the north, but it’s getting better.”

Not surprisingly, Brown’s favorite team was the Dallas Stars. Now, of course, it’s the Coyotes.

“Growing up in Dallas I watched the Stars quite a bit and Brenden Morrow is the guy I kind of model myself after,” Brown said. “He’s a really good leader and a great power forward who finishes his opportunities. And he’s pretty well-respected around the league.”

In the fall, Brown will attend the University of Michigan as the first ever recruit from Texas. Once there, he will join fellow Coyotes prospect Chris Summers, the team captain. Prospects Chad Kolarik, Al Montoya and Kevin Porter also have ties to the Wolverines.

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