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Future Wolverine Brown prioritizes lofty goals

by Brian Fitzsimmons
Chris Brown is living well over 1,000 miles away from his native Texas. Oddly enough, he's beginning to feel right at home.

Tabbed as the No. 29 prospect entering the 2009 Entry Draft according to NHL Central Scouting, the power forward has been making waves as one of the several youngsters starring for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

As fate would have it, he is committed to attend the University of Michigan next fall.

"I'm very excited (about attending Michigan)," Brown said. "With the coaching staff they have, you can't ask for better. They have great tradition and they have the most championships in college hockey. It's been a dream of mine to play for them. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I couldn't turn them down."

But Brown is more focused on leading his club to a potential gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota and Minnesota, beginning Thursday.

A native of Flower Mound, Texas, Brown arrived at Ann Arbor with hopes of elevating his game enough to reach his ultimate goal, which is to, one day, compete on hockey's grandest stage.

Before those dreams can come true, Brown will need to step up in the upcoming tournament, especially in the wake of former teammate and fellow top prospect Kyle Palmieri's mysterious dismissal last month. According to the 6-foot-2 Brown, that shakeup certainly couldn't taint the tightly woven bond naturally instilled in the NTDP.

"The brotherhood that's built up here, it's awesome," Brown said. "I'm excited to get the opportunity to play in the U-18 worlds, and to have it on U.S. soil, it's great we have the chance to show the U.S. can compete for a gold medal on all levels. We want to continue the tradition and show the world U.S. hockey is a force to be reckoned with."

The 18-year-old Brown has recorded 15 goals, 13 assists and a team-high 108 penalty minutes in 53 games this season entering the tournament. His success, however, started with a dream at an early age.

"My dad and I, we were watching Michigan on TV when I was like 5-years-old and I said, 'Wow, those helmets are cool.' And they had the best uniforms, and I said that I was going to play for them one day."

Growing up in an area where football -- and even baseball -- is a staple to the culture, Brown's dream seemed rather unorthodox.

"When I was three, my dad bought me the smallest skates you can find and growing up in Dallas, it's not a hockey hotbed, but it helped me develop," Brown said. "I owe a lot to Texas and I wish I could go back. I'm a small-town kid that would rather play hockey than baseball and football. (Those sports) are a religion down there. I played baseball, but hockey was my passion."

Sure enough, Brown's hard work earned him the chance to excel at one of the most prestigious institutions in NCAA hockey -- even if it means forgoing a quicker trip to the NHL.

"I signed a national letter of intent and I'm sticking to my word," Brown said. "I can't turn down an education like that and attending that school is a once in a lifetime opportunity. What happens, happens in the draft, but that'll be down the line."

"I owe a lot to Texas and I wish I could go back. I'm a small-town kid that would rather play hockey than baseball and football. (Those sports) are a religion down there. I played baseball, but hockey was my passion."
-- Chris Brown

Former NHL player and current Wolverines coach Red Berenson is excited to guide Brown, the school's first-ever recruit from Texas.

"I think Chris will do well at Michigan," Berenson said. "He's got the right combination of talent and worth ethic, so he should be a good fit."

In a few months, Brown is ready to redefine what home-ice advantage truly means.

"I'm excited to live (in Michigan for what will be) seven years, but Texas will always be home through and through," Brown said. "When draft day comes, I'll be really excited and the higher I go, that'd be phenomenal, but hopefully I can just go to rookie camps and the scouts can see what the rookie prospects have. I'll be there with my family and I can't wait for it to come."

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