Kings' Dustin Brown looks back on career, ahead to playoffs

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Dustin Brown didn't want a distracting farewell tour, so he waited until just before the final game of the Los Angeles Kings' regular season to announce his impending retirement.

Because the Kings are headed back to the playoffs after a three-year absence, Brown is grateful his 18-season career is lasting a couple of weeks longer — and he's hoping for another couple of months.

“I can walk away knowing I did my best,” Brown said Friday during an emotional news conference with his family at the Kings' training complex. “The Kings are in a better spot than when I arrived.”

That's a massive understatement. Since the former first-round pick cracked LA's roster as an 18-year-old in October 2003, Brown has been a critical part of the best years in this Second Six franchise's history, including its Stanley Cup championship runs in 2012 and 2014. As the captain for eight seasons, he is the only player in Kings history to accept the Cup from the commissioner in the postgame ceremony.

Along with Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, Brown stuck around during the Kings' recent struggles and emerged on the other side. Los Angeles finished third in the Pacific Division this season with its highest points total since 2016, earning a first-round matchup with Edmonton.

“We took what it meant to be a King to new levels, to new standards,” Brown said.

Brown was never a superstar scorer, but his tenacious two-way play and steady leadership defined the team's attitude under coach Darryl Sutter. His 3,632 career hits are the most in the NHL since the league adopted it as an official statistic in 2005.

He remained an exemplary veteran even when the Kings stripped his captaincy in 2016 and gave it to Kopitar, his close friend. He finished this season with nine goals and 19 assists while playing a key two-way role.

“As far as importance to the organization, I’m not sure there’s anybody that has been more important," said Kings general manager Rob Blake, whose No. 4 is retired in the Kings' rafters. "To be able to be a captain of the team that you’re drafted by, developed by, and to celebrate two Stanley Cups, and to decide on your own when it was time to go out, it’s special.”

Brown didn't have one specific reason why he decided to retire this year, but he has been contemplating it for several months. Brown and his wife, Nicole, were both high school hockey players in upstate New York, and their California family has grow to four children who are all eager to see more of their father.

“I don't think it's really one thing,” Brown said. “Still feeling pretty good physically. Mentally, there's just days that are really hard. There's factors outside the rink that have weighed on me. There comes a time when it's time to move on. ... I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I can walk away with my head held high.”

Brown's 18 seasons with the Kings are a franchise record, and he is grateful for the opportunity to play his entire career in one uniform. He hasn't thought about what his future holds beyond the playoffs, but he plans to spend plenty of time with the family that has missed him for years.

“Our kids have no idea what it's like to be traded, or to have to move in the summer,” Nicole Brown said. “We realize we've been extremely lucky with the Kings. This will always be our home. Our plan is to stay here.”

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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

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