February 06, 2016

Doug Brown

When Sergei Fedorov defected from Russia to play in the National Hockey League, he may have wondered what he had gotten himself into.

After all, he left the Soviet junior national team where his linemates were Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny. In Detroit one of his best linemates was a fellow named Doug Brown.

Doug Who? Doug Brown. But it worked. They could not have been much more different - on the ice and off of it - but they had excellent chemistry.

"I feel freer when he is on the ice," said Fedorov. "He knows my game and tries to feed me the puck," says Fedorov.

On the ice Fedorov was one of most beautiful and savvy players ever to play the game. He was an unquestionable Hall of Famer. Off the ice he was Russia's version of a Hollywood playboy.

Doug Brown was a college kid plucked off the waiver wire. Off the ice he was a quiet family man. Although his father in-law was Wellington Mara, the owner of the NFL's New York Giants.

But this unlikely duo were nonetheless dynamic together. Or at least Fedorov was dynamic, while Brown was underrated.

"My role is to create space," said Brown.  "It's a matter of anticipating his next move."

Brown did that with his excellent skating skills, forcing to defenses to respect him as he streaked ahead with the puck, only to put the puck somewhere in Fedorov's vicinity. From there Fedorov could work his magic.

"With his electrifying skill and speed, all I have to do is get him the puck," Brown says. "Sergei is Mr, Excitement."

Brown - who of course was given the nickname "Brownov" - it was all or nothing. Coach Scotty Bowman would routinely reunite Brown and Fedorov, but often would search for more skilled wingers for the Russian superstar. When Brown was not playing on Fedorov's wing, he was often stapled to the bench, or, worse yet, in the press box as a healthy scratch.

Which was surprising, in that Brown was such a valuable support player to Detroit's many world class stars. He complemented them with his hustle and intelligence, glamourlessly surviving through 854 NHL games over 15 seasons yet he seemingly was always on the bubble.

Brown was a determined penalty killer and a tireless worker. Unlike his famous linemate he was not at all creative with the puck and had a weak shot that made him not much of an offensive threat. Instead he thrived as an alert defensive forward.

These days Doug Brown remains in Michigan, working for Veritas-Global. His son Patrick also made it to the NHL.

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