The Kings played their first game Saturday with LA's newest star athlete. Jeff Carter, right in the picture, was reunited via trade with the Kings' Mike Richards, his pal and former teammate. Both stars were traded last off-season by Philadelphia amid gossip about wild party lives off the ice. [Good thing they won't be tempted by any of that in LA, eh?] The Kings won in Carter's first game, 4-0 over the Chicago Blackhawks, but the score alone doesn't tell the more emotional backstory of Saturday night at Staples Center.
Last week, while Carter was being traded to Los Angeles, reports swept the Canadian sports media that the Kings were dangling their captain, Dustin Brown, in other trade offers. In hockey, captain is a pretty important and prestigious role, and he was the Kings' youngest ever. Brown is popular with the fans for his big hits on rival players, he takes the media questions after losses, he's a generous marketer for the team in the community, he's an American from upstate New York and an Olympian, and he's the father of three young children. This being hockey he has lost his front teeth and probably taken a few stitches for his teammates. Before every game, the Staples Center scoreboard runs motivational images of Brown bleeding dramatically from the head on the ice. So his name surfacing in trade rumors was itself a news story and fodder for commentaries in Canada and hockey cities in the U.S. There are more valuable players, and any athlete can be traded (the Kings once traded Wayne Gretzky), but some saw offering Brown around as an affront to the Kings' most loyal warrior. It's not generally done. The Kings tried damage control, but Brown was quoted expressing some hurt.
Fast forward to Saturday night. In his first game since the trade stories broke, Brown scored the first goal... the second... and the third (yes, a natural hat trick, the Kings' first at home this season.) All he did was have arguably the best game of his career. "An impressive response to rumors of his departure," the Associated Press reported. Fans threw dozens of caps on the ice in his honor, stopping the game for several minutes of cheering, and most of the crowd stuck around after the game ended to applaud Brown's selection as the game's number one star (another hockey tradition.)
Before the game, the Times' Helene Elliott tweeted that the Kings' press box was full of scouts from other teams checking out potential trades. Presumably some were looking at Brownie, as the players call him. But it's safe to say that Brown isn't going anywhere now. Even if Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi wanted to, I don't think he has the personal job security to trade Brown after Saturday night. Unless Gretzky is available.
Photo of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter by Jeff Gross/Getty Images via Los Angeles Kings. Video: LA Kings