Perhaps it was inevitable that new Ottawa 67’s coach Jeff Brown would eventually end up in the organization.
Sooner or later.
As a minor hockey star in Nepean – long before the arrival of the Ottawa Senators – he grew up “idolizing” everything about the franchise, including long-time coach and general manager Brian Kilrea.
After Brown played for Hawkesbury in the Central Junior Hockey League and moved to the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, Kilrea came up short in his attempts to acquire the star defenceman in a trade. Even when a concussion put an end to Brown’s 17-year NHL career with seven teams, he turned to the 67’s for help, hoping he could skate himself back into the big leagues by working out with the team.
“Yeah, I remember that,” Brown said, with a laugh, after being officially introduced as the 67’s coach Thursday. “I skated for one day and then spent the next four or five days on my parents’ couch.”
Now, after a successful six-year stretch of coaching in American junior hockey ranks with Indianapolis of the USHL and St. Louis of the NAHL, Brown is back home where the hockey career started. He believes in an up-tempo brand of hockey – “I’m not a (neutral zone) trap guy, at all,” he says — similar to Kilrea’s behind the bench approach.
“This just feels right,” said the 48-year-old Brown, who is believed to have turned down an AHL coaching job to take the 67’s position. “I can’t tell you how excited I am, how excited Mom and Dad are, for their boy to be home.”
As good fortune would have it, Brown was on his way to Ottawa from St. Louis for his mother’s 86th birthday last week when incoming 67’s general manager Pat Higgins called to seriously talk about the position.
While Higgins wasn’t officially promoted to GM from assistant GM until Tuesday — replacing the outgoing Chris Byrne — he conducted the interviews with the top candidates. Higgins also sought out advice from others, including Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion, concluding that Brown is the ideal choice.
“It’s his passion for junior hockey,” Higgins said about hiring Brown, who is fresh from winning the USHL championship with the Indianapolis Ice.
“He’s a winner. All the teams that he has coached have got better. I did my homework. I checked with a lot of people I trust in the game and everything kept coming back that he would be a good hire.”
When news of Brown’s hiring leaked out early, there was also speculation that his son, Logan, could be joining the 67’s. Logan Brown, a centre, was selected sixth overall by Niagara in the OHL priority draft.
Jeff Brown poured cold water on the two being linked as a package with the 67’s.
“My son’s not coming here, we’re two separate people,” he said. “He’s a good player, I’m a good coach. Who knows down the road? I’m not going to say never.”
For now, though, the new 67’s coach has a wish when and if he coaches against his son in Niagara.
“When we play against them, I hope we win 4-3. And he scores a hat trick.”
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