USA Hockey Magazine

November 2014

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38 NOVEMBER. 2014 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM IT'S GOOD TO BE PHOTO COURTESY OF Dustin Brown/SummerSkates; Getty Images by HARRY THOMPSON AFTER ENJOYING THE SPOILS OF THEIR SECOND CUP IN THREE YEARS, DUSTIN BROWN AND THE LA KINGS ARE HUNGRY FOR MORE ometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words. There was Dustin Brown, kicked back beside a roaring campfire, his hockey-themed SummerSkates flip flops — a company he owns a stake in — dangling from his feet, a few friends around to enjoy a pleasant Upstate New York summer evening and the Stanley Cup by his side. Yes, summertime and the living was easy for the captain of the Los Angeles Kings. What there was of it. For a team that has quickly, and in some people's minds, quietly become hockey's modern-day dynasty, the summer break is short but sweet for a team that has captured two of the last three Stanley Cups. Not that Brown is complaining. He's getting used to life at the top. "Mentally, after having three long seasons in a row, it's important to get away from the game," said Brown, who enjoys the slower pace of life in his hometown of Ithaca, N.Y. "I try not to think or talk about hockey. I pack up the equipment and try to get away, quite honestly. I think that's one of the most important things that gets overlooked sometimes— having that time away from the game." Not that winning the Cup ever gets old, but the Kings know the deck has been reshuffled and history has shown that nobody cares much about what happened in the past. With a silver and black target on their backs, Brown said the Kings are approaching this title defense much differently than they did in 2013. "When we won that first Cup, with the elation and excitement of doing it, I don't think we came back the next year with the right attitude," said Brown, only the second American captain to hoist the Cup. "That's not to say that we didn't play well or play hard because we made it to the Western Conference finals. But I think that our mentality now with winning a second [Cup] is a lot different than it was after the first. It's all about the hunger." Fueling that hunger has been the ability to keep all the Kings' men together season after championship season. That's no small feat working within a system that general manager Dean Lombardi called "sport's version of socialism," where championship teams are often dismantled as soon as the confetti hits the ice and the fizz goes out of the celebratory champagne. "The neat thing about this team that's won the two Cups is that people can identify with them," Lombardi said. "They're not rock stars. They're easily identifiable by the blue-collar and average Joes because of the way they conduct themselves. I think that's had an enormous appeal with a lot of people." And that starts with the Kings' captain. If hockey is the ultimate team sport, then Brown is the ultimate teammate. Even though he suffered last year in just about every statistical category, the longest tenured King was still the team's emotional leader, doing whatever it took to win a key puck battle, dish out a timely hit or stand tall when the chips were down. "The talent across the league is so even, it's really difficult to distinguish between the top

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