Looking back on his illustrious career, many played a role in Dustin Brown’s success. Among those is former LA Kings forward Ian Laperriere.
I recently spoke with Laperriere, who shared his memories of the former Kings captain as a teammate and an opponent.
“What I remember about Brownie was that he was an 18-year-old kid that came on a team that wasn’t playing well,” the 48-year-old recalled.
However, it wasn’t so much his presence on the ice that Laperriere remembers as much as how the young Brown appeared when he first joined the team — a stark contrast to what he saw from his former teammate last week. The Montreal native couldn’t help but be amused when he reflected on his first impressions of Brown.
“You know, we were rebuilding, and you get that young, maybe a little chubby kid that came on board, and he had those cheeks,” Laperriere chuckled. “When I watched his press conference the other day, and he looks like a man. When I played with him, he was a baby.”
All lightheartedness aside, though, Laperriere was quick to admire how far his former teammate came as a player and a competitor.
“He put the work in [to become a leader], and he was just a kid who wanted to learn the game,” observed the 16-year NHL veteran. “He was a quiet kid. He’s still not a big talker, I bet, but just a quiet kid who was a heavy player to play against. He was physical and everything, and I really enjoyed that year we played together. He was a quiet, likable kid who wanted throw his weight around, you know, and [the NHL is] not as easy league to throw your weight around and not an easy city to throw your weight around. Los Angeles is a big city and he obviously did a pretty good job.”
Now well into his coaching career, Ian Laperriere is reminded of the impact young kids can have upon entering the professional ranks.
After spending nearly two seasons as the Director of Player Development for the Philadelphia Flyers, Laperriere became an assistant coach for the club in 2014. He held that position until last year, when he was named head coach of the club’s AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. But despite the plethora of young players that he’s seen come and go, the Phantoms’ bench boss knows that Dustin Brown is a one-of-a-kind type of competitor. In fact, he didn’t hesitate to respond when I asked him what kind of legacy the Ithaca, New York, native would leave on the Kings franchise.
“He’s the one who raised the only two [Stanley] Cups the Kings had raised,” Laperriere emphasized. “At the end of the day, I don’t know what it takes for a guy to get his jersey retired, but that would be a tough one to pass. I mean, [the Kings have] some great numbers [retired] of great players like Luc [Robitaille] and Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor, and all those guys.”
While he couldn’t stress enough how influential each of the names mentioned above was, Laperriere admitted that Brown had one significant advantage over the rest.
“At the end of the day, the only thing that the others guys don’t have was to raise the Cup as a Kings captain, and he did it twice,” he said matter-of-factly. “For me, if you want to acknowledge legacy, acknowledge a guy’s career on your team, the ultimate compliment is to retire his jersey, and for me, somebody watching from afar, there’s no better guy than Brownie getting his jersey retired. It’d be tough to pass when a guy raised that Cup twice for your team.”
For many players entering the NHL, their rookie season is a make-or-break campaign for all intents and purposes. For Dustin Brown, he made the absolute best of his freshman year with the Kings, and Ian Laperriere was an integral reason for his success.
He may be too modest to admit it, but Laperriere’s contributions to Brown’s start cannot be understated.
The former Kings captain, after all, followed a similar route to that of Laperriere’s — he may not have scored at an alarming rate, but when the chips were down, Dustin Brown elevated his game. This emphatically included the many instances where one of his heavy hits would wake his team — and his fans — up instantly, regardless of whether his team was contending for a championship or avoiding the league’s proverbial basement.
Dustin Brown is the Kings’ all-time leader in games played with 1296 and is in the top ten in franchise history in goals (325), assists (387), and points (712). He is also the NHL’s all-time leader in hits with 3,185, averaging an unfathomable 236 per season over the course of his 18-year career.
Overall, Dustin Brown’s legacy to the Los Angeles Kings, the community, and hockey in general, is one that was earned every inch of the way. Of the many to thank for Brown’s impact on this proud franchise, Ian Laperriere’s contributions should be, and is, right near the top of that list.