“In the end it’s just another game,” said Dustin Brown after scoring the game-winning goal during the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 overtime victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
However, it wasn’t just another game; it was the ever-so humble 33-years olds 1000th career NHL game.
“The reason I’m able to play 1,000 games is because I played with a group of guys for a very long time and have been successful,” Brown said prior to the game.
Brown’s journey deserves more than his modesty allows.
Before the start of the 2008-09 season, the Kings named Brown the 15th captain in team history, making him the youngest and only American-born captain in team history.
When Brown was named the captain of the Kings, he had one dream and one dream only, to be the first captain in franchise history to hoist the Stanley Cup. Brown joined the team during a rebuilding process and helped not just build a team but a culture in Los Angeles Kings hockey that succeeded in hoisting two Stanley Cup’s together in 2012 and 2014.
“If you could rewrite history and we don’t win in 2012, maybe even Kopi’s not here right now. Maybe I’m not here. Maybe Quick. Everything changes, because success breeds success. I think we’ve had a lot of players set a lot of organizational milestones, records, and it’s a result of a collective group of players that has been really good for a decade now. It’s been less individual than it might seem. 1,000 games for me is a result of playing with really good players for the last 600.”
“I mean, he plays hard, and he plays every night. He doesn’t miss games,” coach John Stevens said prior to the game. “He’s as tough of a competitor as you’re going to find, but he plays a heavy, hard game and it’s not very often that he misses a game. He’s been a big part of the identity of the Los Angeles Kings for a long time.”
In the summer of 2016 his captaincy was stripped and given to his best friend Anze Kopitar, but Brown continued to be a voice and a leader for the team.
“I’ve always leaned on him if I needed to,” Kopitar said prior to the game. “He was always happy to help and give some pointers and talk about stuff that made it easier for me.”
Currently in his 14th season, all with the Kings, Brown entered Thursday’s game having recorded 534 points (244G-290A) in 999 career games and has played in 81 total NHL playoff contests.
“In order for us to be successful, he’s got to be on top of his game, and that’s what he’s certainly shown,” Kopitar said. “I’m really happy for him that he has a year that he’s having right now.”
Originally selected by the Kings in the first-round (13th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Brown made his debut at the start of the 2003-04 regular season. A native of Ithaca, New York, Brown will become just the second player in Kings history to play his first 1,000 games with the organization, joining Dave Taylor who played in 1,111 with Los Angeles. Taylor, former Kings’ General Manager, drafted Brown in 2003.
Brown is respected all throughout the League, and in his own locker-room.
“I was young in the league and it was not that I needed someone to talk to, but it was just nice that basically after every game, I would tell him, ‘this is what I felt about this.’ Like, ‘how can I do better at this?’ He was always there to talk to me about it, and as a young guy in the league, I think you kind of need that, because there are so many ups and downs throughout the season both as a team and personally, and it’s an emotional rollercoaster, really,” Drew Doughty said prior to the game. “I wasn’t used to having those emotional rides because I was just so dominant when I was younger. When you kind of come in, you need that. It’s almost like a shoulder to cry on. You’re not crying, but that’s what he was for me. And he taught me the ropes, taught me what it was like to be a pro, taught me what it was like to be a good teammate – and not that I was ever not a good teammate, but there were definitely aspects of my personality and stuff like that that weren’t good for the team. He helped me with all those things.”
Brown made everyone entering the league feel comfortable by putting the young players at ease.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in your locker room, whether you’re talking about Doughty and Kopitar or Forbort and MacDermid, [Brown] treats everybody probably the way you’d want to be treated,” Stevens said. “He’s got a real good pulse on the locker room, and he’s a really important guy in the room. He has a good relationship with the young guys. They feel comfortable with him. I think he makes them feel at home in a quiet way. Maybe it comes from having four young kids, I don’t know, but he’s got a couple more in the locker room to take care of. But I think he’s been a great influence for those young guys.”
Brown also becomes the 48th player in NHL history to play his first 1,000 games for one franchise; the 55th player to have played for the Kings and reach the milestone; the 20th player to accomplish the feat in a Kings uniform; the 19th active NHL player to hit the mark; and the 315th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.
Brown is third to Taylor and Luc Robitaille (1,077 games as King) on the all-time Kings games played list. Among Kings, he also ranks eighth all-time in goals, tied for 10th in assists, eighth in points, seventh in power play goals and sixth in game-winning goals.
“I’m still learning,” Brown added. “33. 1,000 games. I’ll probably learn something new [Thursday] night.”
Brown will be honored prior to the Kings-Vegas Golden Knights contest at STAPLES Center on Thursday, December 28, in a special pregame ceremony.