By: Scott Partington
One of my many theories in life is that every city has one particular person, place, or thing that every resident of said city is extremely (read: usually borderline insanely) proud of. Really, it seems to be less theory and more fact. I’ll give you some examples: Atlanta has Outkast, Green Bay has the Packers, and Pawnee has Lil’ Sebastian. My hometown is Ithaca, New York and of course my theory applies to my beloved city. You see, we Ithacans are proud of many things about our city, but in the past couple weeks one particular person has vaulted into the undisputed #1 spot. Through his incredible postseason play, Los Angeles Kings captain and hometown hero Dustin Brown has captured the attention and hearts of hockey fans, analysts, and fellow Ithacans like never before.
First off, here is some background knowledge on the man we Ithacans simply call “Dustin”(we call him by his first name with such regularity that it was hard for me to type his full name for this article, but I soldiered on for the sake of proper journalism). After playing his major junior hockey for the Guelph Strom of the OHL, Brown was drafted in 13th overall in 2003 by the Los Angeles Kings. At age 23 and in his third season with the Kings, he was named the youngest captain in team history. In recent years, Brown has been the model of consistency- registering 53, 56, 57, and 54 points respectively in the four seasons since receiving the “C”. Around the league, Brown is known as a tough-as-nails player who deals out pulverizing body-checks as often as Will Smith makes movies about killing aliens (so basically with un-paralleled regularity). Fun fact: one summer I saw Dustin Brown shopping with his wife and baby sons at the local Target, but was too star-struck/shy to approach him and ask for an autograph.
Now that we are done with that mini-biography, let’s flash forward to the most recent, most exciting chapter in the Book of Brown.
If you follow hockey, you would know that the 2012 Playoffs have been a “coming out party” of sorts for Dustin Brown, who has led the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993. Along the way, Brown has elevated his game to the next level (Kings GM Dean Smith has called it a “growth spurt”). The “growth spurt” is showing not only in Kings wins, but in the personal statistics column as well. Brown is currently situated in the top 5 of every major offensive category for playoff statistics. Most notably, Brown is first in game winning goals and tied with teammate Anze Kopitar for the playoff’s best plus/minus with a impressive rating of +15.
Despite the statistical dominance he has achieved this post-season, Brown’s true value lies within his ability to win hockey games- no matter what the cost. His game is all about throwing the other team off theirs. Whether it be a bone-crushing check or a timely goal, Brown has mastered the art of getting inside his opposition’s heads without letting himself get distracted from his ultimate goal of winning the game.
His teammates refer to him as a fearless leader and a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Opponents (most recently the Phoenix Coyotes and their Captain Shane Doan) label Brown as a “dirty player” for his big hits that they deem illegal. But when Brendan Shanahan, Head Disciplinarian of the NHL, was asked to look over the specific play that the Coyotes and Doan were calling a “cheap shot” he dismissed the case immediately, saying the play did not even warrant a review.
In hockey, there is a fine line between “huge hit” and “illegal hit” and Brown knows exactly how to toe this line. Don’t let his opponents convince you Brown is a dirty player. In fact, their complaining just proves that Brown is doing his job (and very effectively at that). The more time his opponents spend on seeking revenge on Brown, the less time they are focused on playing their best hockey to win the game for their team. Brown is the perfect agitator- and I mean that as a compliment. He gets his opponents off their game without jeopardizing his own team’s success. (The same cannot be said for other “super pests” such as Alexander Burrows, Chris Neil or the absolutely intolerable Sean Avery). Dustin Brown is not a dirty player, he is just the ultimate example of a player you hate to play against, but would love to have on your team.
While goaltender Jonathan Quick is probably the biggest reason why the Kings are up 3-0 and on the verge of defeating the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final, without Dustin Brown the Kings certainly would not have gotten this far. If Quick is the backbone of the Kings great playoff run, Brown has been the heart and soul. His dominant early round play was monumental towards getting the Kings (an 8th seed) past the number 1, 2, and 3 seeds of the Western Conference. Leading by example, Brown gave the King’s the swagger they needed to pull off their miraculous run of upsets. You can point to specific plays by Brown that could be considered the turning point of each Kings playoff series, the moment when the momentum shifted in the Kings favor. Quick will probably end up winning the Conn Smythe (playoffs MVP), and deservedly so, but Dustin Brown has meant just as much to this Kings squad. He raised his game when it mattered most and consequently got this 8th seeded Kings team to believe, setting off a miraculous run that currently has them a win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
I can only imagine the hype surrounding the Kings team in Los Angeles. Brown, Quick, and Anze Kopitar have gotten the team to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. They have the Kings within one win of raising the Stanley Cup, something that not even Wayne Gretzky could accomplish. It’s June and for the first time in two decades the Lakers are not the only team still playing in Staples Center. That is incredibly monumental for the Kings franchise and goes to show how great this miraculous playoff run has been.
The city of Los Angeles is 2,700 miles away from Ithaca, New York, but back home we Ithacans are rooting for a Kings championship just as much as any Los Angelos (or is it Angelian? Angeli? I give up…). Dustin Brown’s great play has created a vibe around town unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The average person has been converted to a giant hockey fan, watching solely because of Dustin. Nearly every person I know will be watching Game 4, eagerly cheering on our hometown hero from across the country. I play youth hockey in Ithaca, so naturally I’m the person everybody comes to with their hockey-related questions. Besides being asked to explain what “icing” is, the question I’m most often asked is:
“Do you really think Dustin can win the Cup? And bring it to Ithaca?”
I don’t blame them for asking; the mere thought of Dustin Brown, an Ithaca kid, living out every hockey player’s dream is enough to get me absolutely giddy in anticipation. The single image of Dustin receiving the Stanley Cup from the commissioner, and then triumphantly raising hockey’s holy grail high over his head is enough to have me bursting with pride for my fellow hockey-playing Ithacan.
So my response to that question always goes something like this:
“Yeah, Dustin will the job done.”
Ithaca is certainly cheering for him.
Scott Partington is a contributor at DailyShootout.com. For more articles by Scott, check out his sports and pop culture blog at lifeandtimesofscott.wordpress.com. Follow him on twitter @LATOS14.