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March 16, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-16

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8 - Friday, March 16, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

The Heart of Texas
How Ann Arbor became home for Chris Brown
By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor

wit0

The click of cowboy boots fol-
iows Chris Browo every-
where. Find him in any sort
of weather - rain, snow, sun
- and he's wearing those boots, trudg-
ing through the long Michigan winters
wearing something that was intended
for a climate more than a thousand miles
south.
Around Ann Arbor, he drives a mas-
sive black pick-up truck with Texas
license plates slapped on it, a not-so-
subtle reminder of the Division-I hockey
player's transplanted background.
And there is the music he listens
to before games, so different than the
hip-hop and electronic beats that usu-
ally flow in the locker rooms of Yost Ice
Arena. Chris prefers country artists like
Kenny Chesneyand The Casey Donahue
Band, whose most popular song is called
"White Trash Story."
The lost cowboy plays the most un-
Texan sport out there on a team that has
never seen someone of his lineage.
"He's not a typical Michigan kid,"
said Michigan forward Kevin Lynch.
"Maybe other people would have adapt-
ed in moving to Michigan, or would be
taking on a different lifestyle, but he's
still a Texan at heart."
Sitting on his couch in Flower
Mound, Texas, Chris took in the 1996
NCAA Hockey Championship with his
dad and fell in love with the winged hel-
mets. After the game, he stood up and
announced that he was going to play
hockey for Michigan. He was 5.
But his journey, this adventure,
doesn't happen without a little pair of
skates that have been passed down from
family member to family member, filling
out the Brown family tree one first-skate
at a time.
Long before there were cowboy boots,
there were skates.
The skates are small and nondescript,
black with white laces, but they have
helped every Brown on every side of the
family tree on the first skate, the only
steady thing going ina time of slips, falls

and tears.
Chris was the first to use them, back
when he was just two-and-a-half years
old, because his mom, Candice, had to
finally release the ball of energy that was
running around her house at 10 months.
Hockey was the only sport Chris was
old enough to play. It also helped that his
dad played college hockey at Division II
Indiana University of Pennsylvania and
knew what he was doing.
The first day he started skating, Chris
was jumping over sticks placed around
the rink.
Maybe other people
would have adapted in
moving to Michigan, or
would be taking on a dif-
ferent lifestyle, but he's
still a Texan at heart.
- Kevin Lynch
"I've been on roller blades and skates
for as long as I can remember," Chris
said. "My mom always used to joke that I
can skate better than I can walk."
He was big enough to play with 5-year-
old kids when he turned 3, playing on his
first team before he started kindergar-
ten. Chris was a full two years younger
than a lot of kids he was playing with,,
and he was still making waves.
"I remember one of the 5-year-old's
mom came up to me and said, 'Oh my
gosh, he is goingto love to play hockey,' "
Candice said. "Even at 3 years old, if you
got in his way, you were probably going
down."
When the Browns picked up and
returned back to Flower Mound - a sub-

urb about 45 minutes from Dallas - after
a quick stay in Pittsburgh, they brought
the hockey with them to a state where
football is the religion of choice.
In middle school, everyone his age
was playing football and so he did, too,
through his freshman year of high
school. His best sport was baseball, but
still, everything in Chris's life revolved
around hockey.
The other sports were just avenues for
staying in shape for hockey and hanging
out with his friends. The conditioning
was his favorite part - he thought two-
a-days were "awesome."
But he would miss football games
and .baseball tournaments for hockey
practices, not confusing his passions for
even a second. Football is king in Texas,
but Chris was far more interested in the
sport played on ice.
As he continued to move up in the
ranks, the travel increased. The level of
hockey played in Texas simply doesn't
compare to hockey on the East Coast, in
the Upper Midwest or in Canada, even
if it has come a long way in the last 20
years.
"My biggest goal growing up in Dallas
was to play for the Texas Tornadoes, the
North American Hockey League team,
because that was the goal for everyone,"
Chris said. "I didn't think I was ever
goingto get out of Texas and play."
He was on the road every weekend,
taking long plane rides across the coun-
try to play in high-level tournaments,
running out of space to show colleges
and the NHL the type of hockey player
he could be.
Chris was getting too big for Texas.
Rob Krohl, one of the best prep coach-
es in the country, approached Chris's dad
after Chris' freshman year of high school
in Flower Mound to have him come play
for his Honey Baked club team in Detroit
with some of the best amateur players
around.
If Chris wanted to play for Michigan,
this was the golden opportunity.
See HEART OF TEXAS, Page 9

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