Former Monarchs coach Dane Jackson fondly discusses the impact that former LA Kings captain Dustin Brown had in Manchester.
Appearing in 31 games in his rookie season, Brown scored a goal and added four assists, but beyond that, he proved that his physical presence suited him well at the highest level.
Unfortunately, Brown’s sophomore campaign had to wait.
The expiration of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement resulted in a lockout, ultimately canceling the entire 2004-05 season. So, as NHLers were looking to play elsewhere, the future Kings captain chose to hone his craft in the AHL with the LA Kings’ then-affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
A demotion for some, Brown saw his time in Manchester as an opportunity to prove himself, and he did just that.
In 79 games for the Monarchs in 2004-05, Brown scored 29 goals and 74 points to help lead his team to an impressive 51-21-0-8 record.
One of Brown’s coaches that season was Dane Jackson, whom I recently had the pleasure of speaking with.
The player-turned-coach fondly reflected on his experience coaching the Ithaca, N.Y., native, admitting that he saw something special in him right from the start.
“For a young guy, just how assertive and how hard he played,” Jackson said of Brown. “He was just so bold for being a young guy. He played so physically, and he put pucks to the net.”
Jackson, who was part of a coaching staff in Manchester that included head coach Bruce Boudreau, was immersed in Brown’s physical play – a foreshadowing of what was to come in the latter’s future.
“For being a young guy, he played like a man,” Jackson noted. “Just thinking, ‘Wow, this kid is competitive, hard.’ He wasn’t really fighting a lot, but he was just finishing checks, crushing guys. He knew we’d go in and run guys. He knew there’d be retribution from the guys coming after him and stuff, and he just kept doing it.”
Of course, Brown’s toughness in Manchester didn’t necessarily equate to his ability to deliver bone-crunching hits. While that was definitely integral to his success, Brown’s competitive edge was just as prevalent.
“I was just so impressed with his competitive level and his physical will,” Jackson added. “The direct toughness that he played his game with was just so impressive to me. We just knew that he was going to be a longtime NHLer because he had such a mindset and such a physical presence to his game.”
For some players, the downside of joining a new team is the lack of familiarity with teammates. That never seemed to be the case for Brown, however. Despite being more stoic, Brown did not hesitate to establish himself as a veritable leader.
“It was a quiet leadership,” Jackson remembered. “He definitely wasn’t a guy who was yelling a lot on the bench or in the room. His leadership was definitely by example, by what he did, and not so much by what he said. Just the quiet presence that which he went about his business as a young guy was extremely impressive. A lot of the guys respected that, and they just followed his way by what he did. There was so much respect for how he conducted himself, how he practiced every day, and how he competed.”
While the Monarchs did get eliminated in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs in 2005, Brown’s contributions were no less recognized and appreciated.
“I remember in the playoffs that year, we were playing against Providence, and they had [Patrice] Bergeron, and he just played so hard,” Jackson reflected of Brown. “He had five goals in those six games in that series. It was just that when things were getting hard and heavy, the better he played. Some guys shy away in those environments when it gets super physical and everything, but it just seemed like that brought more out of him.”
After a season in the old United Hockey League, Dane Jackson took his coaching career to the University of North Dakota, where he has been a part of the men’s hockey coaching staff ever since. Yet, while he has helped groom future NHL stars such as Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, and Brock Nelson, Jackson has never forgotten the impact that Dustin Brown had on him as a coach. In fact, of all the positives that he remembers from his time coaching him, it wasn’t so much Dustin Brown the player but rather Dustin Brown the person that stands out to Jackson all these years later.
“Just the humility of Dustin,” noted the Fighting Sioux’s associate coach. “It was the [lockout] year; that’s why he was down. You see him at [Monarchs] camp, and he was the first one to come over; he’d say hi to you, ask how things are going. Just the man that he was as far as his character and humility. That down-to-earth way about him was what really stands out to me.”
When reflecting on the person and the player, you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone with a bad thing to say about Dustin Brown. But as the 37-year-old rides off into the sunset, the testimonials are pouring in, and Dane Jackson is no exception.
A stint in the AHL is arguably the most crucial of a young player’s career. Even though he already had some NHL experience under his belt, Brown’s time in Manchester was instrumental in his future success.
From becoming their all-time games played leader to captaining them to two Stanley Cup victories, the LA Kings wouldn’t be who they are if it weren’t for the contributions of Mr. Brown. In turn, Dustin Brown’s contributions wouldn’t be as resonant as they are without the contributions of the Manchester Monarchs and Dane Jackson.
It really does take a village.