By Jon Rosen -- LA Kings Insider
With stipulations of the new collective bargaining agreement stating that players who have graduated from an entry level contract are now able to receive their own hotel room on the road, the four-year roommate partnership of Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty has ended.
There are both positives and negatives of this development.
“Just sitting around talking with him, you miss that,” Brown said. “The flipside of that is I don’t have to wake him up early.”
So did Brown serve as Doughty’s personal alarm clock?
“He sleeps more than I do, that’s for sure,” Brown said.
It’s the latest anecdote in the relationship between a tight knit pair of players who have shared a similar path to the National Hockey League.
Both players have birthdays beyond the NHL Draft cut-off date (September 15) and were selected one year past their age classes. Both were first round draft selections who made their NHL debuts with the Kings shortly before their 19th birthdays. Both enjoyed prolific junior careers with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and have represented their countries in the Winter Olympics.
When Doughty made his first appearance in Los Angeles in the summer of 2008, Brown was already well aware of the then-18 year old’s background.
“They had the summer rookie camp and I was here training, so I introduced myself to him,” Brown said of the pair’s first encounter. “I knew a bit of his background. We played with the same junior team. His billet family – they weren’t my billet family, but I was pretty close with them – and so I had a pretty good idea of what type of kid he was.”
The “type of kid” Doughty was drifted towards the other end of the spectrum from Brown. When Brown was playing in the NHL as a teenager, he was shy and reserved – a pair of words that aren’t often used in reference to the naturally gregarious Doughty, or “Dewey” as his teammates endearingly call him.
Ask Brown a question about his former road roommate, and a smirk grows slowly on the forward’s face. There are often chirps between the two; before last season’s Tip-A-King team charity event, Brown even joked about trying to persuade Doughty to lug around an Xbox for the duration of a road trip, noting “he might actually fall for it.”
But when it comes to heart-to-heart discussions between the two players who won a Stanley Cup in their 20s, Brown has long been a steadying voice of stability for his younger teammate’s professional transition.
“I’m the type of guy who doesn’t get dealing with coaches being all over me, or the media being all over me, or things like that, and that’s something since I was young he’s helped me with and told me not to worry about,” Doughty said. “When I’m struggling with getting points, or whatever it may be, I get frustrated, and he’s always been the first one to tell me ‘You’re playing well. Don’t worry about those things. They’ll come.’
“He’s always helped me with those off-ice issues.”
The immediate transition from being a teenager riding buses and playing junior hockey in familiar surroundings to playing in the National Hockey League lifestyle can be a jarring switch, and by virtue of Brown’s own travails with the Kings in 2003-04, he found a common bond with the player five years his junior.
“I think everyone at that age needs a little bit of guidance. He wasn’t overboard with the things he was doing. There’s only one way to learn, and that’s just kind of to go through it,” Brown said.
“All the stuff on the ice was the easy part. It’s taking care of yourself off the ice – like I said, he’s starting to really get that part of it.”
It’s a maturation that has been detected by President/General Manager Dean Lombardi.
“What I’m so happy [about] with Drew is that he showed up in shape,” Lombardi said. Doughty skated with the OHL’s London Knights in the fall during the NHL lockout.
“Because Drew two years ago, given those months off, we all saw what he was his first two years pro. That’s the first thing I say. He’s definitely grown up.”
And though the statistics haven’t exactly jumped off the page as of yet – Doughty has six points, all assists, and a minus-nine rating through 13 games – the poise and decision-making ability still register as among the most gifted in the entire league. With the injuries on the team’s blue line, Doughty has seen his ice time increase as his assignments and usage have toughened. Though there are certainly aspects of his game that he’s looking to refine in his own end of the ice, as an evolving professional with innate talent, the foundation is there for that to happen.
“I think it’s definitely [noticeable], especially over the last year and a half,” Brown said of Doughty’s growing maturity. “He’s gotten into better shape, which is just partly just him working harder. On the ice – his game speaks for itself. But off the ice, he’s doing all the right things, taking care of himself a lot better. Again, that’s something you just don’t know when you turn pro. It becomes a big aspect of being a professional in this league.”
One aspect of the new CBA is that Doughty now has to walk down the hall when he’s looking for someone to confide in while on the road.
“I miss rooming with him when you get home from a late game or something like that, and you can’t sleep,” Doughty said. “It’s always nice to have someone to talk to or watch a movie with. So I miss that. He helped me for four years and was a great roommate.”
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