Simon Gagne reflects on Dustin Brown and how he made him feel welcome. That includes when LA Kings won their first Stanley Cup.
The team’s longtime captain announced his retirement just prior to the close of the 2021-22 season and to suggest that his presence and lineage will be missed is quite the understatement. Yet, while Brown’s decision to move on is certainly disappointing, it has given players and fans alike the chance to reflect on Los Angeles’s Marquee No. 23.
One of those players was Simon Gagne, whom I had the pleasure of speaking to recently.
A native of Ste. Foy, Quebec, Gagne was already an established NHL veteran when he joined the LA Kings in 2011. Yet, despite reaching the 30-goal plateau four times, the 40-goal plateau twice, and even helping Team Canada win Olympic gold in 2002, Gagne had never won a Stanley Cup.
That all changed in 2012 when the silver-and-black won hockey’s Holy Grail.
But while winning his first Stanley Cup was special in itself, it was a gesture spearheaded by Dustin Brown that really made the former Philadelphia Flyer important.
“One thing I will always remember: the captains got together and decided to give the Cup to Willie Mitchell and me first,” a fond Gagne reflected “It made us feel, me and Willie, really appreciated by the guys and you feel that the guys know how long and hard we were waiting for this Stanley Cup.”
While Mitchell was also celebrating his first Cup win, it could be argued that 2012’s victory was a bit sweeter for Gagne. After all, the 14-year NHL veteran ha gone deep into the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, only to fall short on both occasions. After losing in the Final in 2010 with the Flyers, Gagne helped guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to Game 7 of the East Final. However the Boston Bruins had other ideas, ousting the Bolts en route to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
“A lot of failed opportunities in the past with our old teams in our career,” Gagne noted. “We were closer to the end than halfway.”
By 2011, there were a plethora of connections between the Kings and Flyers. Gagne’s arrival to Los Angeles only added to that. But while familiarity played a factor in his decision to sign with the LA Kings, it was how welcomed Gagne felt that gave him the confidence of knowing he made the right direction. As for Dustin Brown, he was front-and-center on the proverbial welcome wagon.
“For sure, Dustin,” Gagne emphasized. “I felt welcomed right away by the team by everyone from players to the organization. Dustin, Kopi, Greener, and my friend Justin [Williams] were the first ones to contact me and show me from the start they were happy I signed there and that I can help with my experience. You could tell that they were ready to take the next step. They were tired of losing and missing the playoffs year after year [prior to 2010]. That’s what I felt.”
While his playing career may be in the books, you can rest assured that Dustin Brown’s legacy with the LA Kings never will be. Simon Gagne is just one of a long list of former teammates who felt the Ithaca native’s enormous impact.
While we look to the future, let us never forget the past. With that, let us continue to celebrate Dustin Brown.