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Brown, 25, the unquestioned leader of Kings

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown, the hard-hitting left wing of the Kings who treats a 200-by-85-foot sheet of ice as his own personal bumper car party, has grown into his role during Year Two of his reign as captain. The weight of the "C" has adversely affected the game of plenty of captains who've come and gone, but not in the case of Brown, proving he is a natural for the role and effectively filling the duties that come with being captain.


Though Brown turned 25 only a month into the season, he is the symbolic and emotional leader on a Los Angeles roster that currently features 16 players his senior. But Brown isn't your ordinary youngster. He's now in his seventh season after debuting as an 18-year-old.

On Oct. 8, 2008, Brown, from Ithaca, N.Y., was named the 15th captain in franchise history. His anointment is also marked by the facts that he is the youngest captain and the first U.S.-born captain in Kings history.

"I think I was excited but comfortable about being in the leadership role. But there is a lot to learn at this level," Brown told NHL.com. "Luckily I had two alternate captains that were going through the same exact thing as I was going through being their first time in a leadership role, young guys at this level. It was Greener (Matt Greene), (Anze) Kopitar and myself. Neither one of them had been in that leadership type role so we went through it together which was a unique experience for all of us. It was a big learning curve last year with everything that goes into being part of the leadership team.

"But we have some pretty good veterans that made it easier along the way for us with Odie (Sean O'Donnell), and now we added Smitty (Ryan Smyth) and Scuds (Rob Scuderi)."

The Kings are no longer rebuilding and are in the thick of the playoff hunt in their second season under Brown's captaincy and the direction of coach Terry Murray. The leadership is clearly defined, prospects are developing on the NHL level and veterans are providing guidance. Borrowing a line from baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Brown is the straw that stirs the Kings' drink, putting him in the same spotlight as megawatt stars Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, Jarome Iginla in Calgary, and Alex Ovechkin in Washington, all captains like Brown.

But like a true leader, he's unwilling to accept all the credit, or even a majority of it. Brown would rather his legacy as captain be measured in team growth and wins.

"Adding Scuds and Smitty was a huge help, and having Odie back," Brown said. "Another thing I think that helps make it a lot easier is that our young guys – Dewie (Davis Drewiske), Jack (Johnson), Simmer (Wayne Simmonds) -- they've all played a full year so it's not their first go-around in this League and they're not surprised by anything. They know what to expect and I think that's makes it a lot easier to deal with. As a team, as 20 guys … everything we went through last year was a huge learning experience for everyone involved, and everyone has gained great experience from that.

"Everyone understands how important each and every game is now, and that might have not been the case last year with some of the young guys. We have a really good locker room, we all are very close with each other and that makes things a lot easier. We just come together and we know what needs to be done to be successful."

Los Angeles management isn't the only group that recognizes Brown's leadership qualities. On Jan. 11, 2010, USA Hockey announced that Brown will be one of four alternate captains for the United States at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It will be Brown's first time in the tournament, and he was one of three NHL captains named to the squad (joining Jamie Langenbrunner of New Jersey and Chris Drury of the Rangers).

"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime shot and any time you get the chance to play in the Olympics and to represent your country it is a huge honor," Brown said upon being named to the team in a ceremony at the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Brown participated in the Olympic Orientation Camp last August. "I got the call (the morning of Jan. 1) and needless to say it is a dream come true and an experience I am really looking forward to."

Though the Olympics represent the pinnacle of the world stage, Brown is not unaccustomed to international competition. At the end of 2008-09, with the Kings out of the postseason, Brown played for the United States at the IIHF World Championships for the fourth time in his career. He captained that squad as well and helped the U.S. advance to a bronze medal-game loss against Sweden. Ron Hainsey of Atlanta and Jason Blake of Toronto served as Brown's alternates.

"It was a little bit different, a short-term tournament like that. Everyone there is just thrown together and it's definitely a different atmosphere, playing eight games together and not 82 games," Brown said. "Actually, it's a lot different for your leadership qualities. You have to be much more to the point right away I guess. You only have so many games to make your point.

"The guys had the right idea. Most had played in those tournaments. It more about getting the point across that we have to be good now. We can't be waiting around."

Contact Rocky Bonanno at rbonanno@nhl.com

Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer

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