Dustin Brown was an avid fan of Mark Messier, one of the most respected captains in National Hockey League history.
As big of a Messier fan as he was, though, it didn’t have any seismic shift towards his rooting allegiances from upstate New York.
“Growing up, I watched the Oilers,” the Kings captain said. “Messier was always one of my favorite players, until he went to the Rangers, unfortunately. I was the anti-Ranger fan in New York.”
Obviously, there’s enormous two-way respect between Brown and Messier, who nominated Brown as a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award for the second consecutive year in 2014. An award in which Messier heeds solicitations from fans, clubs and NHL personnel before determining the finalists and winner himself, Brown was selected as the 2014 winner at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“You look at all the awards, I think what’s really cool about this job in particular is Mark Messier has a big say in who wins it,” Brown said.
Presented “to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season,” Messier also characterized the award as a combination of on and off-ice performance, and “the commitment and the passion that they show on the ice that’s the same thing they show off the ice.”
“Obviously, what they do on the ice for their own teams and their organizations, what they’re doing off the ice, as far as leadership in their communities, being approachable, looking after certain charities of their own and others’,” Messier explained.
The former Oilers, Rangers and Canucks great identified aspects of Brown’s game and persona that led to the presentation.
“His commitment on the ice to play every shift like it’s his last, every game like his last, the way the team has performed over the last several years, taking a team that’s really rebuilt in becoming a powerhouse in the league, and then, of course, everything he does off the ice,” Messier said.
“That combination is not rare, but it’s something that professional athletes have to pay attention to because the game itself is so demanding on your time emotionally that you really have to be focused to do what he does off the ice and make that big of an impact.”
Brown, who donates $50 for every hit delivered to foundations including the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization that builds playgrounds and “promotes healthy and active lifestyles in communities across the United States,” has raised $60,000 for KaBOOM! over five seasons, leading to the construction of a new playground in Carson in 2010.
On the ice, the Kings have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, and the term “dynasty” – one that that generally doesn’t materialize until a team has won back-to-back titles – has begun to be raised speculatively.
“Well, we’re going to enjoy this one a little bit now, and then we’ll start thinking about next year and the D-word,” Anze Kopitar said. “Certainly I think we have the opportunity to do something special in L.A. with the group that we have right now, so we’re going to strive towards that.”
Messier, who won five Stanley Cups over seven seasons between 1984 and 1990, knows a thing or two about “the D-word.”
“We all know it’s much tougher to do that nowadays because of the rules and the salary cap and whatnot, but there have been some teams out there that have been playing well for a long time, and they’re always knocking on the door,” he said. “But to win four or five championships in five years, or five or six championships in seven or eight years, I think those days are pretty long gone. It’s too taxing now to do that on teams, and there are too many other good teams waiting in the wings that are probably a little more rested. Chicago and LA are two of those teams that I’m talking about that have been knocking on the door, and it’s pretty impressive to see what they’re doing.”