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Q & A with Chris Brown

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – Prospect Chris Brown earned valuable experience by playing for high stakes - a national title and a gold medal - in 2010-11. He also played in a extraordinary outdoor game in front of a record crowd.

Brown, 20, whom the Coyotes selected with the 36th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, notched nine goals and 14 assists in 42 games as a sophomore at the University of Michigan last season. Michigan was the runner-up for the NCAA championship.

During the season, Brown took time out to play for Team USA at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. Brown, who notched two goals and an assist in six games at the elite tournament, helped Team USA win the bronze medal.

Recently, Brown spoke to about his season and his plans for the future.

You had nine goals and 14 assists and were plus-16 in 42 games as a sophomore at the University of Michigan last season. Do those numbers please you?

Chris Brown.
A: “Well, it was a really good season for us as a team. We made it to the Frozen Four and then we made it to the National Championship game. Unfortunately, we lost, but it was a really good experience for all of us, especially the underclassmen… For me personally, I thought I had a good year. Like you said, I was plus-16, which I think is 10 better than I was in my freshman year.”

Q: Was being a better defensive forward a goal of yours for your sophomore season?

A: “Yeah. It was a goal to try to be a more complete player, kind of mature from freshman year to sophomore year. Freshman year I know that my role was a little different; I was supposed to be a physical guy, but also score a little bit, especially with the line that I was playing with. This past year my goal was to be that same guy, but add a little more of a defensive attitude.”

Q: You played in an outdoor game against Michigan State last season in front of 113,411 people. How cool was that?

Chris Brown playing at "The Big House." Photo by Getty Images. 
A: “Well, they named it 'The Big Chill at The Big House' for a reason - because it was huge. It was actually bigger than I thought it was going to be. And to see that many people, looking up at them, it was unbelievable. The game went perfectly; we beat Michigan State, 5-0… You could argue that was probably the biggest game of the year for us, even though the National Championship game was up there, too. I think we were a little more nervous to lose that game than the National Championship game because it was in front of triple the amount of people than we played in front of for the National Championship game, and it was at The Big House, and that’s never happened before. And to have that whole thing and to lose, that wouldn’t have gone over well on campus. So, it was fun. Overall, it was a good time and everyone (at Michigan) really enjoyed it.”

Q: Your team reached The Frozen Four and then the National Championship game. Would you please reflect on that experience, personally and as a team?

A: “As a team it was fun to be on that kind of stage. We got to the Frozen Four and lost… It was a good bonding experience for everyone, and a learning experience as well. We beat North Dakota, which is the team that was probably supposed to win the whole thing. That was a treat in itself, and then we got to the National Championship game and lost by one goal, but everyone played hard and everyone did their job… I had a ton of family that came in to watch. Friends and family texted me after the game, telling me how proud they were of me and stuff like that. To know that that many people in the Dallas area, California, and all those states that don’t watch hockey that often were watching and supporting me was a lot of fun. So, I was really happy that I got to enjoy that experience.”

Q: In the middle of the season you played for Team USA and won a bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. What was that experience like?

Chris Brown playing for Team USA. Photo by Getty Images.
A: “It was a great accomplishment for USA Hockey and for me personally because I was the last one cut from the team the previous year and they ended up winning a gold medal. So this year it was just another personal goal of mine to make that World Junior team and to do the best that I could to help the team win another gold medal. We came up short but it was a lot of fun. It was another semi-reunion for a bunch of those guys that I grew up playing with at the U.S. National Team Development Program. And to stand on that line and have a medal around your neck and listen to the national anthem was something special, and to share it with those guys, it was even more special. So, it was a good experience personally. I thought I had a real good tournament. I had a goal against Canada, which was nice. It was actually on (Coyotes goaltending prospect Mark) Visentin, too, which was kind of funny… It was disappointing that we didn’t get a gold medal, but we did get a medal, and anytime you go to one of those tournaments and represent your country it’s nice to come out with some hardware.”

Q: So, you’re going back to Michigan next year, correct?

A: “Yes I am. I’m going back to Michigan for my junior season. It was a decision that my family and I made together, that I want to get some more credits and try to finish school so that way when the time comes and I do have to make the decision to forego my senior season, then I’ll have enough credits where I can do classes in the summer. But right now my plan is to stay all four years. To have a degree under my belt is something that I promised my parents and myself that I would get. So, whatever it takes to get a degree is what it takes. But it was a big decision to stay, and I was happy with that decision. Michigan has treated me very well and the coaches have helped me progress as a player, and that’s something I need to do next year. I need to begin to mature. We lost a lot of key guys from our team… I have to take on the role of being a leader in that aspect of stepping up and playing the same role that those guys did. It will help me mature as a player and it will help me advance my game to hopefully jump to the next level and play for the Coyotes one day. So, I think that everyone - Mr. Maloney and Mr. Treliving and Coach Tippett - are looking for me to step up this next season and prove to them that I can play at the next level.”

Q: Finally, I understand you will be coming to the Coyotes Prospect Development Camp in July for the third time. Can you talk about that event? Is it something that you look forward to? What do you get out of it?

Chris Brown among prospects atop Camelback Mountain in 2010.
A: “I always look forward to coming to Arizona. The Glendale area is really nice. It’s kind of like a mini-vacation with hockey thrown in it for me because I’m stuck up in the cold north all the time. But it’s nice to go there and to kind of get the feeling of what it’s like to be a professional hockey player and to be a professional athlete. You get the taste of what it’s going to take because the coaches and the staff fill you in on some of the little things that you need to do to prepare and what they’re looking for from you for you to make that jump and to make it to the next level. And you also get to have fun, too… I look forward to seeing the other prospects again and to ask them how their seasons went, and what their plans are for next year. It’s more of a learning experience with fun thrown into it, which is really exciting to have right in the middle of summer. It prepares you for your upcoming season because you get to know what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and what you need to work on to improve as a player. To have that feedback is nice, especially when it’s coming from someone at the NHL level.”

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