By Jameson Cooper, Staff Writer
As the NHL lockout continues to drag on through the month of November, future NHL stars are honing their skills in the American Hockey League. One such player is 22 year-old JT Brown of the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. JT was kind enough to take some time during this AHL season to answer some questions for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. After finishing his collegiate season last year for Minnesota-Duluth, Brown immediately made the jump to the NHL and participated in five games for the team as they finished out the 2011-2012 season.
Q: Last season you made the jump straight from college to the NHL, what was that experience like?
A: The experience was great for me. It was awesome to get the opportunity to play after my season ended. For me it was great to play and be able to do something that I had dreamed about since I first started playing hockey.
The Tampa Bay Lightning organization has been blessed with offensive talent in recent years. Future hall of famers Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis still contribute and perform at a high level even as they approach the twilight of their careers. The franchise’s future however is currently resting in the hands of Steven Stamkos, who led the NHL in goals last season (60) and will continue to dominate in the years to come. On a team ripe with talent, JT Brown was exposed to great teachers to help him adjust to hockey at its’ highest level.
Q: During your time with the Lightning last season, what player was most helpful in getting you acclimated to the style and pace of the game at the NHL level?
A: I’d say everyone helped, but playing with (Vincent) Lecavalier was probably the most helpful. While playing on a line with him he kind of took me under his wing and helped me during games and practices, giving me some good pointers and made it a lot easier to just go out there and play.
While the NHL lockout continues to keep talent young players in the minors, the future stars of the league can still look to improve on their skills and sharpen their game. While the NHL is obviously the premier destination for most AHL players, Brown understands that his time in the minors is an opportunity to improve.
Q: What are you hoping to learn in your time with the Syracuse Crunch and how would you describe your AHL experience thus far?
A: I’d say overall just learn to improve as a player, no area of my game is perfect and there is always room for improvement. I am also learning what it takes to play professionally. I had a little time last year, but it’s still a learning curve. The game is quite a bit different than college hockey, but we have a great coaching staff here and are very experienced and that only helps us in getting adjusted.
JT Brown is lucky enough to be playing for an organization that that not only took home the Calder Cup last year when their affiliation was located in Norfolk, but also racked up an astounding and recording breaking 28-game winning streak. Brown joins an already impressive roster, headlined by defending league MVP Cory Conacher and budding star Tyler Johnson.
Q: Which of your Syracuse Crunch teammates has impressed you the most and why?
A: For me that is a tough one, we have a very skilled team. It would be too hard to pick just one player.
Even though their potential future salaries and revenue percentages are being argued over right now in league offices, AHL players are continuing to play night in and night out under the dark cloud of the NHL labor dispute. Some players follow league updates and voice their frustrations through social media, while others keep their banter on the ice and use their downtime to distract them for the ongoing dispute.
Q: Considering you are playing hockey while players at the NHL level are locked out, what kind of lockout talk goes on amongst AHL players?
A: I’m not really focused on the lockout right now, just staying concentrated on Syracuse and like I said earlier just improving as a player. So the majority of my (free) time is not spent on the lockout but more talking about Call of Duty as I’m sure you would guess from my twitter feed.
As the future of the NHL this season continues to hang by a thread, the players of the AHL do their best to fill the void for fans by providing quality hockey action to anyone lucky enough to be located near an AHL arena. Even if the season is lost an players like JT Brown are unable to play at the NHL level this season, the future of each NHL organization is still bright as their young talent stays focused on the task at hand…as well as Call of Duty!
I encourage any fans of hockey, Call of Duty, or just anyone that enjoys a funny tweet here and there to give JT Brown a follow on twitter (@JTBrown23) Maybe you will be lucky enough to challenge him to a game!