Lightning’s Brown Takes The Path Less Traveled To NHL Stardom

As a kid growing up in Burnsville, Minn., J.T. Brown watched his father play professional football and idolized basketball star Michael Jordan.

But despite these outside sporting interests, Brown has made a name for himself in hockey.

While Brown didn't look up to many hockey players growing up, he did spend plenty of time on the ice in Burnsville. This led him to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he played on the Bulldogs' first national championship team in 2011. While playing in front of friends and family in St. Paul, Minn., Brown was named the  Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four.

After two seasons in Duluth, Brown made his way to the NHL after signing a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But prior to his first full NHL season, Brown got a taste of topshelf competition as he joined Team USA at the 2012 IIHF Men's World Championship.

"That tournament was awesome because it gives you more of an insight into how the game is played," Brown said. "You get to see how these experience guys operate. There were a lot of strong guys there."

And in only his fourth full season in the league, the physical forward has become a mainstay with the Tampa Bay Lightning thanks to a relentless work ethic and tenacity that shows up night after night.

With the Lightning, Brown has been a part of multiple runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while he's been successful on the ice, his impact can be felt throughout the Tampa community.

He and his wife, Lexi, have worked diligently in the local community to help at-risk kids. It started with the Browns helping with these kids learn the sport of hockey. Now, they also help mentor these same kids in the classroom.

"What makes [J.T.] so effective is that he's so genuine. He's very quickly to establish that he's somebody that values their time," said Jay Feaster, former Lightning general manager and current vice president of community hockey development. "When he is around them now, it's just the excitement of seeing their buddy J.T. It's not J.T. Brown the hockey player."

As an organization, Tampa Bay has made a concerted effort to connect with the community. This includes the team giving away $50,000 grants to a local organization at each home game.

Though the Lightning was on the outside looking in at the NHL playoffs this season, Brown and others will continue to make connections in the community. And despite his unusual path to the NHL, Brown uses this experience when working in the community.

"For me, it's about giving back and giving these kids who would never be able to skate or see the game of hockey a chance," Brown said. "My story relates back to working hard. That goes beyond just hockey." 

 

Issue: 
2017-04

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