Today's read: A long short on Newell Brown, an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks. He's also a dad, whose son, Adam, plays goal for the Kelowna Rockets.
By Larry Fisher
The Daily Courier
Newell Brown has something that the Vancouver Canucks desperately want — a Stanley Cup ring.
Prior to joining Vancouver this season as an assistant coach, Brown had previously hoisted hockey’s holy grail in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks for whom he worked in the same capacity. In his 14th season as an NHL assistant/associate coach, Brown has only once won the sport’s top prize, and he’s one of only two members of Vancouver’s organization with a ring to remind him of the ultimate triumph.
The other, more recognizable, member is injured forward Mikael Samuelsson, who captured the Cup with Detroit in 2008, but underwent season-ending sports hernia surgery after the second round of these playoffs.
“I believe I’m the only other guy at this point . . . but hopefully there will be a few more members of that class in a few weeks,” said Brown, whose prior coaching posts included Chicago (1997-98), Columbus (2001-04) and two stints in Anaheim (1999-2000, 2005-2010).
That Stanley Cup experience from four years ago is sure to come in handy ahead of Wednesday’s opener as Vancouver prepares to face the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins.
The Canucks, who are playing in their first league final in 17 years, have never won an NHL championship since joining the NHL in 1970. Vancouver lost in the 1982 and 1994 finals to the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, respectively. The Bruins have won five Stanley Cups, but the last came in 1972. Their last appearance in the Stanley Cup was 1990, when they lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers.
“It’s interesting because everybody has to win it for the first time,” Brown said. “But once you’ve gone through the process and you kind of understand the emotional highs and lows that you go through and how hard it really is to get there, you can help by adding a few things in here and there. And hopefully preparing guys for what to expect.
“Everything gets ramped up to the highest level you could possibly imagine, so just handling distractions, staying focused and making sure you’re in the moment all the time — not thinking ahead or thinking behind.”
Brown is the father of Kelowna Rockets goaltender Adam Brown. Now 19, with three seasons of major-junior experience under his belt, including an appearance in the champ-ionship game at the 2009 Memorial Cup, Adam has matured from his days as a Ducks stick-boy in 2006. Anaheim lost to Edmonton in the conference final that season, but Adam was also along for the ride the next year when the Ducks won it all. However, at 15, he was too young to drink from the Cup.
This time, although barely legal in B.C., he can almost taste it — predicting Vancouver to win the final best-of-seven series in five or six games.
“This one is a bit more exciting, just because the atmosphere around here is a little bit different than it was in Anaheim,” said Adam, comparing the Canucks’ playoff run to when the Ducks downed Ottawa in five games to earn the 2007 title. “But, regardless, they’re both pretty exciting.”
Adam has been calling Vancouver home and attending Canuck games at Rogers Arena ever since the Rockets were eliminated by Portland in the second round of WHL playoffs on April 17. With Adam hopping on the bandwagon, it’s been another special spring for the Browns.
“We feel fortunate as a family to have been through some great times in hockey,” said Newell. “For Adam, as a young player, it’s a great experience to look at things and get that perspective of what it takes to be successful.
“That really helped him in the past, just being around guys like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf, the list goes on, and seeing how much they put into their game, how hard they work and all the sacrifices they make.”
It’s true, says Adam, adding he’s paying even closer attention now that he’s nearing the next level with the goal of embarking on a professional playing career. Undrafted last year, there’s a chance an NHL team could
select Adam this June or sign him to a free-agent contract in the off-season. Still, he’s likely to return to Kelowna for his final season of junior eligibility in the fall.
“I just realize how hard it is for them (NHLers) every night,” Adam said. “Especially being in a town like this or a town like Kelowna where the pressure is always on you and the fans want you to win.
“They’re always supportive either way, but you know they’re always going to be a little disappointed if you don’t win.”
Both Adam and Newell were both able to draw parallels and point out disparities between Anaheim’s memorable Stanley Cup moments and the Canucks’ current postseason run — from the on-ice product to the off-ice atmosphere.
Adam saw a similarity in the two teams based on regular-season success that carried over to the playoffs.
Anaheim won the Pacific Division title and entered the 2007 post-season as the West’s No. 2 seed with 110 points — good for third overall in the league. Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy this year with a league-best 117 points — including a franchise-record 54 wins — and held home-ice advantage throughout the post-season.
“They were both teams that you just watch them play and you know they’re going to find a way to win,” Adam said. “Whether they’re having a good game or an off-night, they always seemed to find a way to win, and that’s what good teams do.”
But how they went about their business in posting victories isn’t exactly the same, noted Newell. “It’s a different kind of team, a little bit different makeup,” said Newell, whose role has always been to work with forwards and oversee the power play.
“In Anaheim, we were a very physical team. We kind of did it the hard way; we went over top of people and we kind of willed our way into the championship. We did have a lot of skill at the same time, but we did it with a little bit more forcefulness.
“This (Vancouver) team competes just as hard, but we have maybe a little more depth on the blue-line in terms of defencemen being mobile and able to move the puck and jump into the play. And we have really good speed throughout our four lines.”
Discussing their likeness, Newell said both teams were driven to succeed with a clear plan in place.
“In both cases, we set the bar real high,” he said. “Both teams are willing to play for each other and do whatever it takes for the team first. And on top of all the skill, world-class skill, we also have world-class people, and that’s what really brings everything together.
“That said, we haven’t completed our task here yet. We have to go through that final hurdle, and we’ll see if our team is up to it.”
The Canucks have already cleared two huge hurdles.
First, they finally beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round — winning Game 7 in overtime after blowing a 3-0 series lead. Secondly, they advanced past the second round for the first time since 1994, after being bounced by the Blackhawks in back-to-back years.
“It just seemed like once we broke through those two barriers, our guys felt that much more confident about themselves,” Newell said. “It just showed how together we are and that what really matters is only our opinion of what we have here. After that, we had a great start to the San Jose series and we haven’t looked back since.”
Asked about the fan and media following, Newell said: “It’s a lot different. In Anaheim, when the season ends, you maybe get one article, no matter if you win or lose, then they turn their attention to something else.
“But this is a hockey-crazy market here in Vancouver and throughout the province. And now that we’re the only Canadian team left, it’s pretty amazing the attention that is put toward our team and what we’re doing right now. It’s a totally different vibe and totally different atmosphere for hockey. As hard as it can be on the team, just with how high the expectations are, when you get to this point of the year, they stop with a lot of the criticism and have kind of got behind us. It’s a good feeling right now.”
Adam added, “the saying ‘We are all Canucks,’ it really fits because that’s how everybody feels up here and it’s just not the same down in Anaheim.”
To which Newell concluded: “No question, this is a great time of year to be playing hockey. Playing for the Stanley Cup is really a great experience, and I’m looking forward to it.”