Fresh off the news that Kings captain Dustin Brown has signed in Switzerland to play for the ZSC Lions, we had a chance to catch up with him today for some exclusive thoughts about the decisions he and wife Nicole have been weighing during the NHL lockout.
Nearly two months ago, Brown first told MayorsManor of his offers to play in the KHL. Now, he reveals why he didn’t sign with one of those clubs.
“I think I probably had better financial offers in Russia,” Brown began. “But my family – my three kids are young – so, I want them to be able to come over (and join me) when the time is right. I’m going to go over there by myself for probably the first month – barring things changing with the lockout. Obviously, everything is contingent on that.”
Knowing that he’s leaving soon, today’s skate at the Kings training facility was a little bittersweet. Surrounded by teammates Jarret Stoll, Rob Scuderi, Colin Fraser and others, Brown put in his second-to-last workout in SoCal.
In a few days, he’ll join former Kings coach Mark Crawford and a new group of players thousands of miles away.
Although Brown had his best productive year playing for the man most call ‘Crow,’ it’s not like the two have maintained much of a relationship since GM Dean Lombardi relieved Crawford of his duties in the summer of 2008.
“Just the random, bumping into him at NHL events and that sort of thing. That’s the extent of it,” said Brown.
And the idea of playing for him again?
“It will be fun. It’s probably a different atmosphere over there and a different situation. But, again, that was a big part of my decision too – going over there and having an English speaking coach and a coach that I know. So, that will help me feel pretty comfortable getting right into practices and that sort of thing.”
Working through his agent and Crawford, Brown says the deal came together pretty quickly. Hockey may be important, yet family is paramount to the 28-year old Stanley Cup champion. Thus, that’s what most of his questions centered around prior to signing.
“Where I’d be living, what type of housing arrangements I’d have, what type of schools they have,” Brown detailed, while talking about specifics of what he needed answered. “I can go play hockey anywhere. But, it really comes back to my family. Where I’ll be staying, there’s an English pre-school that’s within walking distance. So, that was important and my main concern, having the option to bring my kids and family over.”
Exactly when they’ll join him continues to be a discussion point for Brown and his wife.
“She had planned to go back to New York for Thanksgiving, whether I was playing or not. So, that will be the same for her and the kids – whether I’m playing in Zurich or playing here. She’ll go back (home) and we’ll make a decision from there.”
Who knows, if the NHL and NHLPA continue to make progress in the labor talks this week, Brown could be playing in Los Angeles again before they ever have to book four more flights to Zurich.
That said, one thing is clear – Brown is itching for something more than what he’s been getting in his weekly pick-up games.
“With everything that’s happened, as players, we come to the rink – and you saw what we did today – we just get on the ice and try to work as hard as we can.” Brown proclaimed. “That’s part of my decision to go overseas and play at a competitive level. I could probably continue to do this and be prepared for the NHL season when it begins. But, as a competitor, you just want to play.”
What about Nicole, she’s probably sick of him being around the house so much too, right?
“We kinda transitioned through that phase, where we’d get on each other’s nerves a bit,” remarked Brown, through a thick smile. “It’s been great for the most part. In a weird way, I’ve probably been more busy (than when I’m playing). With three kids, I drop them off at school and pick them up everyday. That’s something I normally do every once and a while during the year, but because of our schedule and how everything works, I don’t usually get to do a lot of that stuff. So I’ve been doing a lot more of that.”
Like all decisions in the Brown family, Nicole was also instrumental in helping him prepare for what may be in store over in Switzerland. Through her network of friends, they were able to connect with Ryan Shannon.
“He’s played for a bunch of teams in the NHL, but I remember him as a Canuck,” Brown said. “When I looked at the roster and I saw his name on it, (it stood out) because I played with him at USA Hockey. My wife is friends with his wife, so we got in touch. I talked with him just to get a feel for what the team was like and a lot of our questions were answered that way too.”
So, it sounds like everything is set. But, what about Dustin’s other responsibility in life – helping to take care of Drew Doughty half the time?
“He arrived in shape last year — after his own lockout — in pretty good shape for him. He’s starting to learn, so I’m not too worried about it,” Brown said with a big laugh.
He’s hoping Doughty will be his road roommate again soon.
For now though, Brown will have one more skate at TSC tomorrow morning with his NHLPA brethren and then it’s off to Zurich on Wednesday. His first game with the ZSC Lions is scheduled for November 13.
Exclusive: Dustin Brown on KHL contract offers – September 2012
Exclusive photos from NHLPA skate in LA – featuring Kings, Ducks, Islanders, Sabres, Stars and more