Two season’s ago the Kamloops Blazer’s dealt for an eighteen year old tough guy named Mike Brown and Blazer fans were abhorred at the price, offensive spark plug Shawn McNeil. Fans were upset and wondering how the Blazer brass could deal a potential league scoring leader for a thug? After all, the kid couldn’t get along with Red Deer management and had demanded a trade, word was he had limited skills and little work ethic. Kamloops fans and some media would then take their shots at Mike upon his arrival, making comments like “he’s lazy”, “can’t skate”, “takes stupid penalties”, “looks like he doesn’t care” and “boy did Kamloops get taken on the deal”! Two years later, he’s as popular a player as Kamloops has on their roster, Mike Brown has won over most. Mike has continued to improve his skating and is second to none in picking his spots to send a message to opponents who attempt taking liberties with his teammates!
Recently, Mike was kind enough to spend a few minutes of his time to talk with me and shed some insight on his hockey career so far and what he sees in his future. What impressed right away was his confidence and sense of self as his first comment was “the Canucks traded Zezel so I can get number, 21”! Some might see this as arrogance but to me in this cut throat world of pro sports, it came across as confidence, not cockiness! Mike knows where he wants to be and seems more than willing to work for it, all the while secure in his ability to get there. I asked Mike regarding his time in Red Deer and he was refreshingly open about it. When asked why Red Deer traded him, Mike said, “I asked to be traded because I didn’t see eye to eye with management, but it was probably as much my fault as it was theirs”. Mike also stated he really liked the town of Red Deer and enjoyed his time off the ice there. Upon arriving in Kamloops, Mike found the transition tough at first, Kamloops was a team steeped in tradition that expected a lot of it’s player’s both on and off the ice! Mike credits coach Marc Habscheid for helping him improve his game and being a player’s coach who pushes guys to work on their game.
As a fan, Mike is my kind of player. Tough, physical, willing to drop the gloves and as an added bonus, could put the biscuit in the basket. I was willing to take the wait and see approach to “Brownie” and was impressed right away when he dropped the gloves with Kelowna Rocket defenceman Kris Mallette early on with his new team. Brown destroyed his opponent with a big right hand and I was won over. Brown continued to impress with his toughness, but it was his offensive numbers that were surprising to me with all the negative comments before his arrival. Brown finished the year with twenty three goals and thirty three assists, not to mention his new club record for PIM’s, 305. For a guy who spent the year defending teammates, he still managed an impressive fifty six points. Mike also continued to improve his speed and positional play as the year progressed to the point where he was very effective on both the power play and penalty kill.
Mike’s second year with Kamloops has seen his point production fall slightly, but part of the reason for the decline is Mike carried the load as Kamloops’ only real fighter for more than half the season and thus spent a lot of time in the box. In my opinion Mike has really become a presence on the ice with his relentless fore check and punishing hits this year. The twenty eight goals show he can put the puck in the net and with the continued growth in his game over the past two season’s in Kamloops, Mike looks to be the master of his own destiny as far as the NHL goes and my money says Mike will be a player in the “show” sooner than later.
GP G A PTS +/- PIMS
#21 Mike Brown 98/99 69 28 16 44 20 285
97/98 72 23 33 56 -13 305
Thor Kehler of Montreal, quite possibly one of the rarest breed’s in Quebec, a Canucks fan, had the following questions for Mike and the following are Thor’s questions and Mike’s answer’s.
Q: What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?
A: Mike felt his strengths are his skating, physical play and willingness to mix it up. As far as weaknesses, Mike felt he needed to get stronger physically, both in his legs and upper body, improve his shot and continue to upgrade his overall game!
Q: Do junior player’s pay attention to their pro teams roster to see what they might need? I’m thinking here that the Canucks need a power forward who skates well and can still pot maybe twenty goals. Are you aware of that need and do you think about changing your style to fit those needs?
A: Mike answered part one of this question as we walked out of the arena as he talked about the Canucks roster saying that the Canucks had dealt Zezel, an older forward who just happens to wear Mike’s number, 21. Mike said he was aware the Canucks had an enforcer in Brashear and his goal is to become exactly the kind of player mentioned, a power forward, but adds with a laugh, I’ll still drop the gloves when needed! Mike feels he has the tools to be a power forward and needs to work on his strength to be effective at the NHL level.
Q: What do you work on over the summer?
A: Mike stated he has worked with Peter Twist over the last two summers, Twist happens to be the Canucks strength and conditioning coach. Mike tries to improve his overall strength and conditioning!
During our conversation I asked Mike about other players he looked at as being tough customers when the gloves come off and Mike was quick to mention teammates Ty Jones and under rated Jordon Flodell. Jones a south paw and Blackhawk draft pick is quick and throws hard shots, while Jordon Flodell in Mike’s opinion isn’t as well known as a scrapper, but he can hurt you with both hands and is arguably one of the toughest guy’s in the league. Mike also mentioned Kyle Freadrich and Stephen Peat as tough guy’s who can cause a guy problems. An up and comer Mike says to watch for is Kelowna Rocket, Mitch Fritz, who is huge and if he works on his game could be a name you’ll hear in the future!
Player’s in the NHL that Mike likes are Brendan Shanahan and Eric Lindros, with Donald Brashear and Tony Twist being two fighters he likes. Last year Mike signed a big contract with Florida worth $2.5 million over three years and a $900,000 signing bonus and intends on earning it right away with the opportunity to play with and against the players he’s admired over the years. With the youth movement in Vancouver right now and Mike’s continued efforts to improve his game, it may only be a three hour drive down the highway for Kamloops fans next year to see Mike wearing his familiar #21!