Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Paul Betit email@example.com
How does a hockey player from Flower Mound, Texas, end up playing for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League?
If you're Chris Brown, you leave home at age 14 to play for a major midget team in Detroit.
Then you spend two years playing for the U.S. national development program's under-18 team.
Finally you spend three years playing for a former NHL great, Red Berenson, at the University of Michigan.
Of course it all really begins when your parents put you on skates when you are 3.
"Both of my parents are from Erie, Pa.," said Brown, who has just a hint of a drawl left after spending the last seven years in Michigan. "My dad grew up playing hockey and my mom grew up watching it. It's in my blood."
The Phoenix Coyotes, entering their second season as the Pirates' NHL parent team, selected Brown in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft before his freshman year at Michigan.
"We watched him in the U.S. development program and he's a guy we really liked," Phoenix assistant general manager Brad Treliving said. "He's big, strong and is what I like to call instinctively aggressive. He just bangs into people. I think when he walks down the street he walks into people. But he's a got a little skill-set, too. He can shoot a puck."
The Coyotes also were impressed with Brown's psychological makeup.
"He has high, high leadership character," Treliving said. "When we did our psychological evaluation before the draft, he was off the charts."
Brown said it was difficult to leave the Wolverines at the end of his junior year.
"I loved the university," he said. "It offered me a whole lot of opportunities that I would not be able to have today."
But Brown said he had to make the jump.
"It was a decision to pursue my dreams to become a professional athlete," he said. "It was tough but I had to make this jump to further my development."
According to Tanner Wilson, who maintains the Texas Ice Hockey Expert website, Brown will be one of the first Texans to play full time in the AHL.
Austin Smith, runner-up for the Hobey Baker award following his senior year at Colgate, is expected to suit up for his first season with the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars' AHL affiliate in Austin, Texas.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, former New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch and former Colorado Rockies defenseman Mike Christie also were born in Texas. None of those players played in the AHL.
DURING THE third day of practice Tuesday, the Pirates worked on the forecheck.
"It was interesting to see how they took the stuff they saw in video and put it into practice, how they think," Portland Coach Ray Edwards said.
"(Monday), we did a lot of breakouts and those type of things, and we're watching to see how they absorb the information and then execute on the ice."
THE PIRATES' first two intrasquad scrimmages between two 15-player teams have been especially fast-paced.
"Last year we barely had enough guys to fill one team," said Ethan Werek, a second-year forward. "There's a lot more guys and it's a lot more intense, for sure."
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: