At an age when most players are lucky to just be kicking off their NHL careers, 22-year-old left winger Dustin Brown
is already in his fourth season with the Kings. One of the game’s best hitters, who is being asked to put more pucks in the net this year, he gave us the rundown on everything from how he got started to being an 18-year-old rookie to even getting married this past summer.
RR: How’d you get started playing hockey?
BROWN: My older brother. I just kind of got into it because he played it. He’s two-and-a-half, three years older than me. I played baseball and lacrosse as well and then when I was like 13, I just stopped playing baseball and played lacrosse. I could have played lacrosse in college, but I just didn’t like it as much as hockey.
RR: What was it like moving to Guelph?
BROWN: I went right after my freshman year of high school, when I was like 15. Just living in Canada was different. There were different things up there that weren’t the same as living in the U.S. But, it was still a lot of fun and I got used to it pretty quick. It was a good situation for me from the start because I got put in with a good family to live with. And, Guelph is a good organization to play junior hockey. It worked out for me.
RR: As the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year for three straight seasons (2001-03), you must have had no trouble hitting the books.
BROWN: I put good effort into it. School was never a problem for me growing up. I kind of just got it done. That award, it was an average. They had some formula for what you do on the ice and what you do in school. It helped that I was one of the better players on the team. I don’t know if I was the best student on the team, but I was one of the best. It just kind of came easy.
RR: What do you remember about draft day?
BROWN: It was exciting, obviously. I think I was there for maybe 45 minutes, but it felt like I was sitting there for hours. And that was being drafted 13th overall. I couldn’t imagine being drafted later. Your whole draft year, you’re scrutinized every game. It was almost a relief just to get drafted. You’re like, ‘it’s over now.’ And then, funny thing is, that’s when the real work begins.
RR: Did you know the Kings were going to select you?
BROWN: Not at the start of the draft, but I was sitting in the bleachers and the 11th pick was being picked and they pointed at me in the stands, saying ‘We’re going to pick you.’ So, I knew like a pick or two before that, if I didn’t get drafted before then, I was going to LA.
RR: Surely you didn’t think you’d be in the NHL the next season.
BROWN: I knew it was a possibility, but did I think it would happen? I wasn’t really sure. I mean, I came in and had a really good camp my first year and it just worked out. You get drafted and you’re so excited about getting drafted, you’re not worried whether you’re going to play or not.
RR: What was it like walking into your first training camp with the Kings?
BROWN: It was definitely intimidating. I went into juniors as a 15-year-old, playing against 21-year-olds. That was intimidating. Then when I was 18, there were like 38-year-olds on the Kings. It was just a little different. I remember Luc [Luc Robitaille], he has a kid that’s like four years younger than me. But, it was good. There were certain players that made it a lot easier. I remember my first year, Ian Laperriere was a really big help making me feel comfortable.
RR: What was your first NHL game like?
BROWN: I was really nervous, really excited, but at the same time it was like it was hard to believe, really. It didn’t help that we were playing the Detroit Red Wings. At that point, they had like 10 Hall of Famers on their team. My first shift, it was kind of awkward for me.
RR: Do you remember your first goal?
BROWN: We were in Colorado and I remember Ziggy Palffy and Cammy [Michael Cammalleri] assisted on it. I’m not sure how the play started, I think it was on the face-off. Cammy came around the net and kind of just slid it across the crease. I was standing there with my stick on the ice and just redirected it into an open net. It was actually one of the easiest goals I’ve ever scored.
RR: You’ve earned a reputation as a big hitter. Have you always played that way?
BROWN: I became more physical my last year of juniors. I don’t know, maybe I just got bigger and stronger. And then my first year in the NHL, I was struggling offensively scoring goals. I remember thinking, ‘If I’m not going to score, I need to do something to be able to stay here.’ I started hitting and people started noticing and it just started becoming part of my game. And, it’s continued to be part of my game. Now I’m starting to score a little bit more. It’s actually starting to give me a little more room out there.
RR: You’ve never been a big penalty guy, but a few of your hits have resulted in you having to stand up for yourself. Are you comfortable dropping the gloves?
BROWN: I wasn’t comfortable with it. I had only one fight in juniors. I’m not a big fighter, but if someone is going to come after me, I’m going to protect myself. It’s not something I’m going to do unless I have to stand up for a teammate or stand up for myself. It’s nothing I have a problem doing. It’s a lot more holding and grabbing then it is getting hit with punches.
RR: Is there a method to hitting or is it just being in the right place at the right time?
BROWN: It’s kind of a mix between the two. A lot of it is being in the right spot at the right time, but there are ways you can put yourself in a better position to have a good hit. A lot of it is technique, too. There are plenty of guys out there that are bigger and stronger that I knock down. It’s being able to deliver the power at the right time, I guess.
RR: Do you enjoy the charge a good hit gives fans and teammates?
BROWN: You don’t really notice the fans when you’re out there, but for the team it can be a good uplift. Especially when they need a boost. It’s not always going to be a hit, but it’s always nice to be the guy that provides that energy.
RR: Have you ever given a hit and rung your own bell?
BROWN: There are some hits where it probably hurts me more than it hurts him. That’s happened before where I’ve gone back to the bench and, you can’t tell that I’m hurt, but I’m sitting there and I’m hurting. The best hits are the ones you give and don’t feel, but those don’t happen all that often.
RR: Having excelled at that aspect of the game are you ready to become more of an offensive threat?
BROWN: Yeah, I think I’ve established myself as a pretty good hitter. I think my first year, I ran around a lot to hit and make myself get noticed. Now it’s like I can almost pick my places when I want to hit. I’ll get my big checks in through the course of the year, and I’ll still do my part physically, but it gives me a little more time and space and maybe that will open it up for a goal or two more.
RR: You’ve become an integral part of the power play. Do you like your role in front of the net?
BROWN: I think everybody wants to be on the power play and penalty kill. The power play is fun, but it’s also pretty hard. A lot of pressure is put on you to score or do well. I probably have one of the easier spots, although it depends on which way you look at it. All I have to do is sit there and create havoc for guys. At the same time, I’m beat on pretty good.
RR: You’ve had quite a bit of international experience. Have you enjoyed representing your country?
BROWN: I think my first trip with the U.S. I was 16, so I’ve played for a while with them and gotten to know a lot of the people there. It’s always fun to play for your country. Every time it seems I go, most of the time it’s right after the season, so you’re kind of like ‘oh no.’ But once you get there it’s always fun and you always get to meet new players which is really good. It’s not always the greatest town or city or country, but you go to the rink and it’s always full. It’s different, but it’s always fun to play in those types of environments.
RR: You got married this past summer. How’d that go?
BROWN: I’m glad it’s over with. I didn’t have to do much planning, but it was a long process. My wife obviously planned a lot of it and she drove me crazy sometimes.
RR: How did you meet Nicole?
BROWN: She’s from my hometown. She played hockey and we got to know each other at the Empire State Games. It’s like New York’s version of the Olympics, more or less. I’ve known her for a lot longer, but I got to really know her at the Empire State Games, at that tournament.
RR: So she’s well versed in hockey then?
BROWN: Oh, yeah. She lets me know it every time I play bad.
Originally printed in Royal Reign.