10 Days Of Dustin – The Man Behind The C

Dustin Brown was always there for the Kings, even when he wasn’t.

Even before being named captain in 2008, Brown already felt like the future face of the franchise.

Where was he during the NHL lockout of 2004-05? Representing the Kings in Manchester. He may have been wearing a Monarchs logo at the time, yet it already felt like you were watching a Kings player in the AHL.

When suiting up for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and again in the 2014 Games, having a letter on his jersey wasn’t surprising. He was clearly an established leader at that point. Again, he was really just repping the Kings while wearing a different sweater.

Seeing him at the NHL All-Star Game in 2009 was nice, but being named the recipient of 2014’s Mark Messier Leadership Award may have been his greatest individual honor. When arguably the best leader in sports recognized Brown for his leadership, it cemented what many already knew privately – Brown was the real deal.

Having been around the New York native and covering him for essentially his entire career in Los Angeles, there are too many special memories to list. However, when I was asked to share a few, I quickly realized most of my favorites aren’t the obvious ones.

Sure, winning the Stanley Cup — not once, but twice — were beyond incredible moments. And being on the ice with the entire Kings team when they won the first Cup was a true honor and privilege; an evening I’ll treasure for all my years.

June 11, 2012 actually serves as a dividing line in so many ways. There are events that happened prior and others that happened after that magical moment. In many ways, 2012-14 exists in its own mini-time period. I still chuckle when thinking about some of my conversations with Brown during those pre-Cup years. He was loose, he was funny, and he was sly. At practice, he usually had an underrated sarcasm and often had this smirk that let you know there was more there, if you could only crack the code — which wasn’t so easy. Sure, he’d talk hockey as much as needed. The best chats were reserved for those rare moments when he’d let loose and chirp his teammates, with Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi being some of his favorite targets. Self-deprecating Brown was probably my favorite, even calling himself a nerd on occasion; only to call Kevin Westgarth a bigger nerd.

When I think of Brown, I also think of class. He was always classy, even when he didn’t need to be. He gave me an exclusive interview after the 2012 Western Conference Final. Game 5 had been tinged with a bit of controversy during the closing moments and subsequent handshake line. He never buried Shane Doan or the Coyotes.

The man dealt with a wide measure of extremes while representing the LA Kings. From cellar dweller to celebrated All-Star and Olympian, from multi-time Cup winner to under-appreciated player. He’s experienced a plethora of unique highs and lows, yet continually showed up as the ultimate professional and team player. Class on top of dignity, layered with honor and respect. He was tasked with establishing a new culture and standard in Los Angeles. Mission accomplished and then some.

There isn’t a doubt about Brown’s love of family either. Wife Nicole was often a topic of conversation when discussing life away from the rink; naturally, as they’ve been together since they were just kids. Yet, when Brown called me to talk about his decision to go play in Switzerland during the 2012-13 NHL lockout, his love of family was gripping. He talked about how he and Nicole looked at several different leagues he could sign with temporarily. Ultimately, he passed on bigger money offers to keep his young family together, in what was sure to be a once in a lifetime type adventure for the (then) five of them.

He was so much more than a goofy smile or witty under-his-breath retort to numerous bigger personalities inside the Kings locker room. Yes, he had the big hit to change momentum in countless games. It wasn’t just the crushing blow to Sedin, but hundreds of other times in nearly 1,500 regular season and playoff games.

It was late December 2015 when I first wrote about Brown deserving a statue outside the arena someday. It’s more than well-deserved. Not because of that article, but because he is the King of Kings.

Brown was one of the last true power forwards in the NHL. He left a stamp on the sport as silent but deadly. You can’t think of Mike Modano without thinking of the Dallas Stars. Ryan Getzlaf is the Anaheim Ducks, just as Brown is the LA Kings.

With his statue now outside the arena, he’ll continue to be there to watch over the team.

In my opinion, when his familiar No. 23. goes to the rafters on Saturday, it should have the captain’s C in the top right corner.

It won’t be there on his banner, even though it should be.

It would only be fitting.

Dustin Brown is LA’s captain. Forever.

From February 1 through February 10, we’ll have a Dustin Brown themed post each day, leading into the Kings next home game on February 11, which will be one of the season’s most memorable. The Kings will retire Dustin Brown’s number 23 on that night, with a statue unveiling as well, in what’s sure to be a special and momentous occasion for those – including many Insiders! – who are able to attend.

10 Days Of Dustin, Archives
2/1 – The Milestones
2/2 – The Photos
2/3 – The Videos
2/4 – The Person
2/5 – The Player
2/6 – The Announcements
2/7 – Professionalism & Personality
2/8 – The Leader

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