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Brown Having The Time Of His Life

Thursday, 12.30.2010 / 4:12 PM CT / News
By Bob Matuszak
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Brown Having The Time Of His Life

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The sun hadn't come up yet, but Flower Mound youngster Chris Brown and his best friend couldn't resist hopping onto the Valley Ranch Dr Pepper StarCenter ice for an open hockey session just before dawn. Little did they know they'd soon be skating side-by-side with the greatest player in Dallas Stars history.

Brown playing for Michigan on Dec. 11, 2010
While the boys were working on their skating and stickhandling, Mike Modano laced up his skates and entered the rink. After getting his work in, he suddenly began passing the puck to Brown, and in turn the 8-year-old began feeding one-timers to the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

"This was when he was in his prime, and he started messing around with us," Brown, 19, said Wednesday during the United States' off-day at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. "It was 5 in the morning, and it was pretty nuts. I remember him moving the net with his shot, and it was just like, 'Wow, this is Mike Modano.' Our eyes just lit up. This never happens. Looking back at it, the effect that he and the Stars organization all had on Dallas hockey has been tremendous."

Hockey's always been in Brown's blood. His father, a native Pennsylvanian, played Division II hockey at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, while his mother watched her husband play all through high school. Chris, meanwhile, was born in Houston, then moved to Erie, Pa for a brief stint before the family settled in Dallas when he was 4-years-old.

Brown began skating when he was 3-years-old, ironically, for the same reason Modano took up hockey as a youth-- both of their mothers thought their young one was a bit hyper and needed something to do to release the energy.

"It was mostly to keep me active," Brown chuckled.

Brown began his hockey life playing in the Junior Stars program before moving to Michigan to play Midget hockey with Detroit Honeybaked in 2006. He then became a member of the U.S. National Development Program, and played on the Under-17 and Under-18 teams from 2007-09.

He was drafted in the second round (36th overall) in 2009 by the Phoenix Coyotes after deciding to play hockey at Michigan. Now in his sophomore year with the Wolverines, his rights belong to the Coyotes until he either graduates or decides to leave early to become a professional.

"As of right now, I'm loving school and loving everything about it," he said. "I love the University of Michigan and everything it has to offer. Coach (Red) Berenson and the rest of the coaches have really helped me out, and I love the players, and the school. It's been a passion of mine to go to Michigan ever since I was little. So to have that opportunity to go to the great University that Michigan is, and to play a varsity sport like hockey there, it's second to none. You don't want to give up that opportunity if you've been blessed to play there."

Back when Brown was born in 1991, a United States national hockey team would feature players mostly from northern hockey hotbeds such as Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, and Massachusetts. Not anymore. Brown is one of four players on the current Under-20 U.S. team to have hometowns in non-traditional hockey areas.

Mitch Callahan and Emerson Etem are both from California, while Jason Zucker's home is in Las Vegas.

"USA Hockey has come a long, long way," U.S. coach Keith Allain said. "There's a much deeper talent pool in the country to draw from, and a much wider area. You have to give credit to the youth coaches in areas. Organizationally, it's really well run. Hopefully that will lead to more success in tournaments like this."

So far, Brown and his U.S. teammates are having plenty of success in their title defense at this year's World Junior Championships. They've won each of their first two games heading into Thursday's matchup with Germany and Friday's encounter with Switzerland.

Brown, meanwhile, scored his first goal of the tournament in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Slovakia, and his strong forecheck forced a turnover in the Finland zone that helped Zucker score in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Finns on Sunday.

"I think the team's playing really well, especially in a tournament like this where there are top-tier players from each country," Brown said. "We knew that the Finns and the Slovakians were going to be tough teams and that we needed to come out and play hard, and we did. I think we're now starting to jell. It's hard to become a team when everyone is on separate teams during the season. But a lot of us have played together, or played against each other, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"I'm doing my best to keep playing my role, be physical, and be a presence on the ice. I think I'm doing that pretty well so far."

"He's a guy that you want on your side and not on the other team," forward Jerry D'Amigo said about Brown. "He's physical, gets in the dirty areas, and has a great shot. It's guys like that that you need. He plays that role so well."

Brown fondly remembers watching Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals when Brett Hull scored the winner in triple-overtime against the Buffalo Sabres, though he admitted he hadn't thought about now playing on the very same sheet of ice that he saw Modano and Co. capture the organization's first championship.

But there's good reason for him not to be reminiscing too much this week.

"I didn't really look at it when I got there," he said of the end where Hull swatted the puck in past Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek. "This tournament is all about focus and stuff like that. But now that I think about it, yeah, it's clicking in."

And clicking is exactly what Brown's career is doing, thanks in large part to his hockey start in North Texas.

"I had really good coaches right from the beginning," he said. "Jouni Lehtola really worked on us as young kids, getting us skating properly, doing edgework, and doing all different kinds of stuff for development reasons, and my dad coached my up through pee-wees. I give a lot of credit to him and the rest of the people in Dallas and the Stars organization for bringing me up."

United States' schedule:
Dec. 30 vs. Germany: 6 pm CT HSBC Arena, Buffalo N.Y.
Dec. 31 vs. Switzerland: 7 pm CT at HSBC Arena, Buffalo N.Y.

IIHF-U20 World Junior Championship Schedule




1 CHI 56 36 16 4 158 128 76
2 DAL 53 33 15 5 170 142 71
3 STL 55 30 17 8 132 129 68
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 51 27 20 4 147 138 58
6 NSH 53 25 20 8 136 139 58
7 COL 55 27 24 4 148 152 58
8 ANA 50 25 18 7 111 115 57
9 MIN 52 23 20 9 127 126 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 52 20 20 12 120 142 52
12 CGY 51 23 25 3 134 148 49
13 WPG 52 23 26 3 136 150 49
14 EDM 54 21 28 5 132 164 47


J. Benn 53 28 31 15 59
T. Seguin 53 28 28 10 56
J. Klingberg 53 8 35 14 43
J. Spezza 52 18 22 5 40
P. Sharp 53 16 24 -1 40
C. Eakin 53 10 13 1 23
A. Goligoski 53 3 20 17 23
M. Janmark 53 10 9 13 19
A. Roussel 51 8 10 5 18
V. Nichushkin 50 6 12 7 18
A. Niemi 20 10 5 .908 2.52
K. Lehtonen 13 5 0 .907 2.82 is the official Web site of DSE Hockey Club, L.P.  The Stars name and logos are registered trademarks of the NHL and the Stars. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2016 DSE Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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