Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's J.T. Brown tough like NFL dad

COLUMBUS, Ohio — You know what the best part was for J.T. Brown about having a father who did not understand hockey?

There wasn't what Brown called "overbearing pressure" or "too much constructive criticism" which, he noticed with some of his friends in Rosemount, Minn., many times turned into yelling.

Instead, Brown's father, Ted, who played running back for eight seasons for the NFL's Vikings, had one message.

"He always talked to me about controlling how hard I work," Brown said. "That's the only thing you can actually control in a game. You can't control the outcome. You can control how hard you work."

"That allowed him to be who he wants to be," Ted said, "not who I want him to be."

What J.T. Brown, 23, has become is an intriguing addition to the Lightning.

Called up from AHL Syracuse on Nov. 12, the day after Steven Stamkos broke his right leg, the wing has maintained a spot on the second line — right now with center Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov — and played on the first power-play unit.

He is fast, gritty and, despite being an undersized 5 feet 10, 172 pounds, is a regular in corners and in front of the net.

In nine games he has only one goal and two points. But with 24 shots in that stretch, most on the team, coach Jon Cooper said goals can't be far away.

"He's fearless, and you can't have enough of those guys," Cooper said. "It's rare you see him take the puck and pull up; it's going to the net, somehow, some way. You've been witness to the chances he's been getting. That's because he's not afraid to go to the net. When you have that fearless gene, it's just a matter of time before he starts putting them in."

That fearless gene might as well be called the father gene because that was the way Ted Brown (5-10, 206) played for Minnesota from 1979-86, with 4,546 rushing yards, 40 rushing touchdowns and 13 touchdown catches.

Asked if he can see some of himself in his son, Ted said of course, especially in the "physicality of his game. He sticks his nose in places. Instead of me running down the field trying to run over somebody to get to the goal, he's trying to skate around somebody to get to the goal. It's the same mentality."

Ted said he never pushed J.T. to play football, and J.T. said he only played in local rec leagues before deciding in high school to concentrate on hockey.

But when J.T. played football he was a running back and he still wears his father's No. 23.

"I get a little bit of background from football with my dad, and I try to take that onto the ice," said J.T., who signed in March 2012 out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. "You can't be afraid to go into corners, even though you might not be the biggest person."

"My philosophy was play hard, play smart, play together," Ted said. "I always tell him that. Never let anyone dictate what you want to do."

Like father, like son.

Drouin named: Prospect Jonathan Drouin, the No. 3 overall draft pick, will play for Canada at the 2014 world junior championship.

Medical matters: Left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie (arm/elbow) traveled with the team, though it was unclear if he will play tonight at Columbus. … D Radko Gudas (upper body) is expected back in the lineup for Saturday's home game against the Jets, Cooper said.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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