As a child Dan Brown saw the call for dinner – the short intermission that is was – no excuse to unlace his skates. It just meant strapping on the guards once again so he could walk into the house to scarf down another meal as fast as possible, just to make in time for the start of the second.
Brown was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 6 along with the likes of Major League Baseball star Joey Votto, sports journalist Bob Weeks and two-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Walton. Inducted into the builder category, the Toronto Marlboros head coach didn’t actually start playing hockey until he was 11 years old; it was then that his father scraped together all the hockey equipment he needed to be ready for the West Mall house league’s evaluation day.
“I loved skating and back in the day we played a lot of ball hockey out on the street – it seems like every day we were playing ball hockey,” said Brown, who admits that being an avid Maple Leafs fan sparked his passion for the game.
“I was a typical boy growing up with the culture of hockey all around you, it was a part of my life right from the get go.”
Who better to prepare the information for Brown’s section in the Hall of Fame pamphlet than Toronto Marlboros general manager Michael Chraba, a friend of 20 years. The two first met while Brown was coaching his sons on the West Mall Lightning Minor Novice team.
“[The ceremony] was pretty moving because Dan has been very successful with our organization,” said Chraba. “He approaches the game in the right way – he focuses on the fundamentals but at the same time his practices are scheduled to enable his players to develop a great hockey IQ.”
Chraba finds that Brown’s communication skills help the Etobicoke native stand out. Some coaches are yellers and screamers, he says, but Brown’s way of teaching and treating parents and players fairly is what defines him as a great role model.
“The hockey circle is not only competitive and offering kids a healthy life style but it also teaches a lot of life lessons and as parents, we get to share that experience of watching them grow up to be men,” said Brown, who appreciates the relationships he’s developed with players he has known since they were four years old.
One of those young men is Brown’s son, Connor, whom he coached in minor hockey. Last season Connor led the Ontario Hockey League with 128 points in 68 games, and he now paces the Toronto Marlies with eight points (3-5—8) through his first 11 games in the American Hockey League.
“To see them now as young adults in their 20s and moving on to the next stages in their life, some playing more competitive hockey, you take a lot of pride in seeing how they turned out.”
Brown’s coaching style – or formula, as he calls it – hasn’t changed over the years, but one thing is for sure, his wife isn’t about to let him wear his skates to the dinner table any time soon.