For Drew Doughty, his first memories of Dustin Brown were of his first ever NHL roommate on the road, during his rookie season.
“It’s hard even to talk about Brownie, honestly,” Doughty said. “He was my roommate my first year in the league, somewhat of a father figure / brother to me. He taught me so much from the get go, I love him so much.”
Doughty was a rookie at the time, his first year in the league. Brown had five professional seasons under his belt and had been named as the team’s captain in the fall, prior to the 2008-09 season.
When reflecting, Doughty used the terms father figure and brother in the same sentence. That’s how their relationship grew.
In Year 1, Doughty was Brown’s coffee guy, bringing a coffee for the veteran back to the room each morning on the road.
“At our hotel, we would order four deserts, we got two each every night before the game, that’s a memory of mine,” Doughty said with a laugh. “I was his coffee guy, every morning I had to go get him his coffee and bring it back. I was the thermostat guy and he was the curtain guy and then I was also the alarm guy, I remember one time I made us late in Colorado, he gave me [crap] for that one.”
Though they were late, Doughty said they found a way to sneak in unnoticed.
As the pair grew as teammates – and that’s what they’ve been from Doughty’s rookie season 14 years ago until now – a mentorship turned into a friendship. For all of the things a young Dustin Brown passed along to a young Drew Doughty, it’s now what an older Drew Doughty is passing along as an even older Dustin Brown moves on to the next chapter.
To enter training camp in the fall, without someone Doughty has never played without in the NHL, it’s certainly going to be a bit different.
“Man it’s going to be weird being here without him,” Doughty added. “I love him and I’m going to miss him and it’s going to suck, but that’s a part of the game. People retire and move on, but I’m not worried about it because I’ll still see him, talk to him all the time, so I’m not worried about losing a friendship or anything like that, we’ll be friends forever.”
For Trevor Moore, his first memories came from the stands. The local kid, the fan of the team, he recalled going to a game when he was young and seeing someone out there in a Kings jersey hammering players on the other team all over the ice.
“I remember we went to a game and I can’t remember how old I was, and I was like ‘who is that guy out there, he just smashed three guys on one shift, who is that guy’ and it was young Dustin Brown, he was the captain,” Moore recalled. “So many great memories of Brownie, it was really cool to play with him.”
Anyone who grew up as a fan of the LA Kings likely had a similar moment. “Who is that man out there just blowing guys up and scoring 30 goals while doing it?”
For most, that was how that impression remained. For Moore, however, he was the lucky one who got to see that impression changed. The dynamic switched for the Thousand Oaks native from that of fan to captain, to that of teammate to teammate. Moore, probably better than anyone, understands what Dustin Brown means to the fans of this hockey club. He means more than you can reasonably put into words.
He also now understands what Brown has meant to the organization inside the walls of the locker room, and he’ll certainly miss those contributions starting next season.
“Brownie leaving sucks, I think everyone knows that he’s been a staple of the LA Kings for so long and he was the identity for the Kings,” Moore added. “The toughness, big boy hockey, he brought that here and we’re going to miss him a lot.”
For many of us, Moore’s relationship is the most relatable, in that we’ve all watched Dustin Brown play from outside the glass. Moore was just the one who was good enough to move his way inside those walls.
For those who have always been on the inside, however, Brown has gone to work with the trio of Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick for the bulk of his career. Brown entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie back in 2003. Kopitar joined the NHL roster in 2006, Quick in 2007 and finally Doughty in 2008. Since that time, there’s never been a Kings team that didn’t feature that quartet of individuals.
As Doughty described, at first, Brown was the player he looked up to and learned from. And in some ways, he still is to this day. Quick shared similar sentiments as someone that everyone who has been an LA Kings has looked up to in some way.
“It’s what he means to this organization, to me, to my family, he’s been here since Day 1 for me personally,” Quick said. “He’s a guy that everyone in the locker room has looked up to for a long time. It’ll be different, but I’m just happy for him, Nicole, the kids, what they’ve been able to do over the past 20 years. You’re happy for him, the career he was able to have, the impact he was able to have on this organization and this city, you can’t say enough about him.”
After Game 7 in Edmonton, Kopitar was asked about Brown and was only able to get out five words, with the emotions of the situation overwhelming in the moment.
“I’ll miss him a lot.”
When you put their relationship into context, it’s understandable, considering the way that Brown’s career officially came to an end, a loss in Game 7 of a hard-fought playoff series. That interview took place just minutes after the final buzzer.
Kopitar certainly had more to say on his long-time teammate, but it was difficult to do so in the moment.
“There’s 16 years of friendship and brotherhood that’s very hard to put into words,” he said. “When you look at his career, it’s a celebration. He took this team to a couple of Stanley Cups, he’s been in the Olympics, the leader that every team would want on their team. To be able to share it with him, selfishly I enjoyed it very much and I’m going to miss him a lot.
In terms of teammates, current Kings General Manager Rob Blake shared that relationship with Brown for two seasons, upon Blake’s return to the organization as a free agent in 2006. It was when Blake left to finish his career in San Jose that the captaincy was officially turned over to Brown and what a fitting transfer of leadership it was.
Blake saw seasons 3 and 4 of Brown’s NHL career and has now overseen the final nine seasons of Brown’s career from an executive-level position, including the final five as the team’s general manager.
From afar, and from conversations with Head Coach Todd McLellan, Blake saw Brown’s importance throughout this season’s playoff series firsthand.
“For us upstairs to have that type of leadership, Todd came to me during that series, we talk every day about lineups, and he said listen, the biggest leader we’ve got going right now is Dustin Brown,” Blake shared. “I think once he got the retirement part over at the end of the year, he really took pride in what he was going to do during the playoffs. We were so fortunate to have had him here for so many years, captain of two Stanley Cup teams, there’s not much more that we need to say. He’s been everything to the franchise.”
From a management standpoint, Blake certainly embraces all that Brown provided and would likely be the first to agree with one of Brown’s remarks from his retirement press conference.
“The Kings are in a better spot than when I first arrived.”
From his impact on the ice, his role in delivering two Stanley Cups to Los Angeles, his influence on several up-and-coming players with the leadership that he’s brought into the room, the relationships and friendships built with teammates and staff and the character he’s come to the rink with each and every day.
What everyone above has said certainly defines that statement well. The Kings are in a better place in 2022 than they were when Dustin Brown arrived back in 2003. And that’s something to be celebrated.
*Insiders, this will be the final story of the weekend, barring any sort of news from the organization. Planning for a few days with the laptop closed and we’ll be back with an Insider Q&A here on the site early next week, perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday, to transition here from 2021-22 wrapup coverage to the beginnings of a look ahead to 2022-23. Much more to come, but fittingly, we’ll leave this story on Dustin Brown up for a few days to continue his last dance here with the Kings.
Talk soon, enjoy the weekend!