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Hockey

Kings captain Dustin Brown is better than a year ago

Dustin Brown
Kings Captain Dustin Brown, who turns 30 on Nov. 4, had six goals and 14 points in the playoffs, including two game-winning goals.
(Leon Halip / Getty Images)

Future headline: This is 30.

It’s almost hard to conceive that Dustin Brown, the baby-faced longtime captain of the Kings, will be having a milestone birthday in November.

The father of four youngsters, owner of two Stanley Cup rings and two-time U.S. Olympian will turn 30 years old Nov. 4. Longtime hockey followers will all feel a tad older upon hearing such stunning information.

Looking around at all the youngsters — some even born in the mid-'90s — hanging around in Kings’ training camp helped enforce the point for Brown.

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“It’s definitely weird seeing some of their birth dates,” Brown said Sunday.

Brown, by the way, looks leaner than in the past. Of course Kings Coach Darryl Sutter offered his own special twist on the matter.

“He’s got new hair,” Sutter said. “That’s the longest hair I’ve seen Brownie with since I’ve been here.”

This was the third full day of training camp for the Kings, and Monday will feature split-squad games against the Arizona Coyotes. Sutter will accompany the group going to Arizona rather than running the bench at Staples Center. Brown and Anze Kopitar won’t go to Arizona either, but specific game rosters were not yet released by the teams.

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Not ready for preseason game action are goalie Jonathan Quick (wrist surgery), defenseman Drew Doughty (upper-body injury) and center Jarret Stoll (hip surgery). Stoll, who was injured in the playoff series against Chicago, had the surgery June 24 and has been on the ice practicing, hoping to get in at least one game before the season starts. “In a perfect world, it would be three,” Stoll said.

This part of training camp is mostly about evaluating youngsters, anyhow.

For Brown, it is a vast improvement from a year ago. He was injured on the opening day of camp, hurting his hamstring. The injury set him back, lingered and marred the first half the season. Brown started to reverse course only when he traveled to Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics, representing Team USA. He had been dropped to the third line during the regular season and found himself back with the top line during the playoffs.

“Things were definitely not going well for me here,” said Brown. “The Olympics, for whatever reason, were a change of scenery. For whatever reason, that’s all you need mentally. I came back with a fresh mind-set and renewed focus.

"…It’s that Catch-22. If I knew what I could have done differently, I would have done it.”

He refused to use the injury as an excuse.

“Every player has gone through ups and downs,” Brown said. “Up until the Olympic break was probably the most frustrating stretch of my career. But it’s about finding a way to get through it.

"…I just tried to build on that through each game. You always want to be playing your best hockey at the right time of the year.”

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Sutter’s motivational methods helped too.

“He’s very honest. I didn’t have a very good year last year and he was the first one to tell me that,” Brown said. “It’s one of those things: Sometimes you need it. Sometimes he plays the bad guy and gets you mad enough where it helps out.”

Brown had six goals and 14 points in the playoffs, including two game-winning goals. Kings defenseman Alec Martinez had three game-winning goals, including in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against Chicago and the Stanley Cup clincher against the New York Rangers.

The final frame of Brown’s hockey season — two of the last three years — has featured NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handing him the Stanley Cup at Staples Center. A once-in-a-lifetime moment has happened twice to the face of the Kings’ franchise.

“He’s matured a lot,” Stoll said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, but we all saw what he did in the playoffs. Two years ago, he basically won a couple of series for us almost by himself. It shows a lot how much he cares for the team.

“He’s not rah-rah like some of us are. But he’s definitely more comfortable that way.”

For those who expect Brown to be featured in an upcoming reality TV series, he quickly dismissed that speculation. His wife, Nicole, will be in “Hockey Wives,” along with others who are married to NHL players, as first reported by Yahoo Sports.

“I just told her I didn’t want to be involved,” Dustin Brown said. “Everyone thinks it’s like ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashian’ show. I’m in it for about four and half seconds, in the yard playing with the kids.”

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The series is to be aired in Canada and almost all of the filming has been completed, according to Nicole Brown. She stressed it would not be a distraction. “We would never do it during the season when we have so much going on,” she said.

One goal is to show family life. To that end, some footage was shot back in their hometown, Ithaca, N.Y., in the summer as well as the first day of school for their children. It also counters stereotypes about hockey wives and girlfriends, she said.

“Not everybody is an actress or a model — yes, there are some — and they’re fabulous,” Nicole Brown said. “But that’s not everybody. We’re not sitting at home on the couch, eating bonbons, paying people to take care of our kids and shopping every day.”

Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa


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