2014 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONSHIP WRAP-UP: Part 2 of Frozen Royalty’s wrap-up of the Los Angeles Kings winning the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship, and the ensuing celebration.
LOS ANGELES — As mentioned in Part 1 of this wrap-up of the Los Angeles Kings winning the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship on June 13, followed by their official Stanley Cup parade in Downtown Los Angeles and a rally at Staples Center after that, the Kings were celebrating and expressing their gratitude to those who helped them reach hockey’s highest of heights, especially the fans. But they were also busy sending carefully crafted messages to everyone in the hockey world.
One of the loudest messages, delivered not long after the players hoisted the Stanley Cup, was that winger and captain Dustin Brown had silenced his critics once again.
During the on-ice celebration, Brown hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second time in his National Hockey League career, becoming the first United States-born captain to hoist the Cup more than once.
“Emotionally, [this series] was right up there with the [Chicago] Blackhawks [in the Western Conference Final],” said Brown. “It was just a shorter series. I’m emotionally spent, like I’ve never been before.”
Brown was emotionally spent because, like so many of his teammates, he gave everything he had, every night, during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In 26 playoff games this season, Brown scored six goals and contributed eight assists for 14 points, with a +7 plus/minus rating, 22 penalty minutes and two game-winning goals. He also led the NHL in playoff hits with 125.
Noting that not all teams play the same number of games in the post-season, if you do the math, Brown also led the NHL in playoff hits per game with an average of 4.81.
Boston’s Milan Lucic was a close second with 4.67 hits per game, while Anaheim’s Devante Smith-Pelly was third with 4.42.
To put his hit statistics into proper perspective, teammate Jarret Stoll ranked second with 95 hits and Chicago’s Bryan Bickell was third with 80 in 19 games. New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was fourth, with 80 in 25 games.
Brown would be the first to tell you that he had a sub-par regular season in 2013-14, and that understates things greatly. But even though some continued to criticize his play and his leadership during the playoffs, his post-season statistics alone completely discredit such criticism.
Also discrediting his critics is the work Brown does off the ice to bring his teammates closer and closer together, and after they won the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship, it was already very clear that his work towards that end had paid off in a big way—it was a key factor in winning their second Stanley Cup Championship in the last three seasons.
“At the end of the day, I just love the twenty guys [in our dressing room],” he said. “That’s what makes us special. We don’t have anybody who’s going to put themselves ahead of the team, and we don’t need anybody to play great. If we [all] play good, we win a Cup.”
“This has been the most exhausting experience of my life,” he added. “Again, it just comes back to the twenty guys and everything that entails. It’s really hard to put into words how special these guys are. I wear the ‘C,’ but like I said, it’s about twenty guys, pulling the same rope, digging out of the trench holes, and just banding together. That’s what makes team sports so special, our team in particular.”
“That’s the result of our management keeping us together, and us pulling together. That’s really hard to do with the [salary] cap, but we’ve found ways to have guys come up [from the minor leagues], play well and add to our core that we have here.”
As captain, Brown has also made it a point to keep an eye on the organization’s work off the ice, in terms of marketing and in giving back to the community, not to mention making sure management and ownership know what the players need to be a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
At the Stanley Cup Championship rally on June 16, Brown thanked ownership and management.
“I want to thank Phil and Nancy Anschutz for being the best owners in the league,” said Brown. “Each year, they give us the means to contend for this big Cup right in front of me. To bring two Cups home in the last [three seasons] is an awesome feeling for these players and everyone involved.”
“I also want to thank [President/Chief Executive Officer, Anschutz Entertainment Group] Dan Beckerman and his entire staff,” added Brown. “The countless hours, the work they do behind the scenes, especially during the two-month stretch it takes to win this thing, accommodating our family and friends, making sure they’re comfortable. That goes a long way, allowing us to focus on doing our job.”
Brown might have been expressing his gratitude to ownership, but he was also putting a message of his own out there for everyone’s consumption: that AEG is now running the Kings in a way that wins championships, providing the resources the team and management need to be perennial Stanley Cup contenders, a reputation that they did not have prior to the 2012 Stanley Cup win.
Brown then turned to the families.
“It’s fair to say that none of us would be up here without [our families],” he said. “Whether it’s our kids, our wives, our girlfriends, our parents, our grandparents, at some point along the way, they sacrificed something for us to be here today. I think it goes without saying that this is a big part of the reason we’re here and [that] we’re celebrating this thing in front of me.”
At that point, Brown thanked the fans by telling a story.
“I want to thank you, the fans, but in a roundabout way,” he said. “I’ve got a story that I think puts things into perspective. It’s a cool, little story that happened over the last couple of days for me, personally.”
“We won the Cup a few days ago and when you’re in the midst of everything, it’s such a blur,” he added. “You kind of lose track of things. With everything that goes with winning the Cup, some things get overlooked. I remember, the day after, my kids were practicing the milk chugging contest out of the Cup. We had the NHL Network on and they [were showing Alec Martinez’] overtime goal on replay. It took me a couple of times [after] my mind had settled down a bit, but if you watch it [and] if you listen closely enough, about three or four seconds after Marty picks up the puck in our defensive zone, you can hear all of you guys saying, ‘we want the Cup!’”
“For that to click in at that moment, right before he put the puck in the net, is kind of an unbelievable scenario of how it all worked out. Like I said, it got lost in the shuffle, but it’s one of those things you cherish, as a player, looking back on it. You guys were chanting right there, right before we scored.”
A recurring theme throughout the playoffs was the closeness of the Kings players and the camaraderie the amongst them, alluded to earlier in this story.
“You fans, and everyone outside of [our dressing room], it’s hard to explain what we go through, as players,” said Brown. “When we look back on this team in ten, twenty or thirty years, everyone, even from a fan’s perspective, you’re going to talk about how we came back from 3-0 [against San Jose], how we came back from 3-2 [against Anaheim], how we had all these comebacks throughout. But if I could try to share something or relate what we, as players, share, all those things are possible because of the relationships we’ve bonded together. That, I think, goes a long way when the going gets really tough, knowing that you have a brother you can lean on.”
“I just want to say to my teammates that I love all of you guys,” added Brown. “This is unreal.”
Brown stressed that none of that would be possible without President/General Manager Dean Lombardi.
“When I talk about my teammates, and how we’ve grown that bond, it’s something you can’t do over the course of two months,” he explained. “A big reason why we have the bond that we have is Dean and his staff. He’s a big reason why we can stick together. We’ve been together for hundreds of games over multiple years, and that allows us to, hopefully, bring more of these home.”
Looking back at Brown’s remarks during the on-ice celebration after Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, and following the Stanley Cup Championship rally on June 16, we now get a much more complete picture of Brown’s character and leadership, as captain. His play during the playoffs, especially during the Stanley Cup Final, while not spectacular—he is not that kind of player to begin with—was what the Kings needed from him, and more. He scored big, timely goals, did the dirty work in the corners, and in front of the opponent’s net, and made opponents think twice when he was on the ice because they knew he would punish them if given the opportunity.
That’s called on-ice leadership, exactly what his teammates have been saying all along.
“We all know what type of player he is,” said Stoll. “It’s pretty black and white. Hard, physical, leads by his play. He’s a big part of our team, huge part of our team. No other guy should have the ‘C’ on his jersey, that’s for sure. Big goals, big plays—he does it all.”
“I think he’s done a good job being the identity this team is built around,” defenseman Matt Greene told the media in New York on June 10. “Hard, physical forwards with some skill. Very tough to play against. He was the driving force behind that. He delivers. He plays his game. He sets a tone for us. He’s forged an identity for himself and for our team.”
“Brownie is a great leader, a great captain,” defenseman Drew Doughty told the media in New York on June 10. “He does a lot of things both on and off the ice, especially on the ice. He works as hard as possible. He cares a lot. Great captain, great leader.”
As Doughty mentioned, Brown does the job both on the ice and off. But what so many don’t know about is the off-ice aspect of Brown’s leadership. The local media get a glimpse of it after practices once their dressing room is opened for interviews. However, most of what Brown does happens out of public view. But his remarks during the on-ice celebration following the deciding Game 5, and especially during the Stanley Cup Championship rally, are very revealing in that regard. In fact, he does quite a bit off the ice, in his role as captain.
Further, Brown’s remarks, especially his speech at the rally, were not prepared. Indeed, they were extemporaneous. They were off-the-cuff, unscripted, and they came easily to him.
As anyone who has done any public speaking can tell you, when someone is speaking from the heart, words come easily. That much was evident, as Brown made sure to thank everyone involved, and he was deferential to his teammates, as the team’s culture, which he has played a key role in developing, dictates.
Based on all that, is it any wonder that Brown is considered by many to be one of the best captains in the NHL?
It’s time that his critics face the music and admit that, too.
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