When Boston College hockey coach Jerry York first scouted Patrick Wellington Brown at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in Michigan, he wasn’t wowed by the forward’s game.
But there was something about him that stood out. York described it as “something in his DNA.’’
There is no question that, in terms of athletic genes, Brown has the mother lode.
After a four-year career at Boston College, his father, Doug, played right wing for 15 years in the National Hockey League and won Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. His mother, Maureen, was on the golf team at BC.
His uncle is BC associate head coach Greg Brown, one of the top defensemen in school history who went on to a four-year NHL career followed by an eight-year career in Europe. He was also an Olympian in 1988 and ’92. Doug and Greg were inducted together into the BC Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 2004.
Patrick Brown’s maternal grandfather is the late Wellington Mara, who was co-owner of the New York football Giants from 1959 until his death in 2005.
The families have made an indelible stamp on BC. Doug Brown said between Browns, Maras, and those who have married into the family, 24 have matriculated at The Heights or will in the near future. Doug’s oldest daughter, Anna, graduated. Patrick and Kaitlin are currently enrolled and Christopher has committed to play BC hockey in two years.
Patrick Brown, who hopes to lead the school to its fifth straight Beanpot Tournament championship beginning Monday night at TD Garden, said he never considered anywhere else.
“Ever since I was a kid, I always said, ‘I want to go to BC,’ when people would ask me,’’ he said. “I came [to BC] on a recruiting trip and it was an outstanding school, great academics, great hockey. I just thought it would be a great fit.’’
It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition, however. Brown had to earn his playing time and sometimes there wasn’t any to be had.
“Like most freshmen coming in, BC is an outstanding team and there is a lot of competition,’’ said Brown, a 21-year-old senior who has 15 of his 28 career points this season. “I struggled at first finding my role but I’ve pretty much bought into my role as a stopper guy and I’m trying to get more points as they come.’’
Being around hockey all his life has certainly helped. When Doug Brown was playing for the Red Wings, Patrick would hang out at Joe Louis Arena and practice his street hockey skills.
“I wish I had paid attention [to the NHL games] more now that I’m older,’’ said Brown with a laugh. “But I definitely would play my mini-hockey with Chris Chelios’s kids and a few of the other players’ kids.’’
Brown said his father and uncle have been crucial to his development as a player and person.
“It’s like having a coach everywhere I go with my dad and my uncle,’’ said Brown. “[Greg Brown] is just such a smart hockey mind that it’s great having him around to give me advice as an uncle and a coach. I like to skate in the mornings before my classes. Lots of time, he would come down and skate with us. High-skilled guys would work on things they would do in games like stickhandling moves and one-on-ones, and I’d be working more on puck protection and screening the goalie and winning faceoffs, stuff pertaining to my role.’’
Greg Brown said he had some trepidation about coaching his nephew but that went away quickly.
“It’s been a pleasure to coach him,’’ he said. “I was a little nervous at first as to how it would shake out having your nephew on the team, but his attitude and his effort he gives every day makes it very comfortable. If he was a guy you had to kick in the butt to work hard, it might be awkward, but there has not been one day we’ve had to do that. As a relative, it’s really rewarding. His hard work is paying off. His first two years he sat out a lot of games and it wasn’t an easy lineup to crack, but he never wavered in his efforts.’’
Many players who come into college programs were the top scorer on their high school, prep or junior team, but Brown said that was never really the case with him.
“It never came naturally to me,’’ he said. “I do it just by working hard. I don’t consider myself a goal scorer.’’
Like his uncle, Brown played some defense growing up because his father recommended he be versed in as many aspects of the game as possible.
“But shutdown forward was kind of what I embraced once I got to college,’’ he said.
And it was his work ethic that resulted in him being elected team captain, following in his uncle’s footsteps.
Senior right wing Kevin Hayes, who has been Brown’s roommate for three years, said he deserved it.
“He’s a great leader,’’ said Hayes. “He’s probably one of the hardest-working guys on our team. He has a lot of respect from the guys. Just through his journey, a lot of guys can relate to being in and out of the lineup and eventually finding his niche. He’s accepted that role and he does it very well. I think he enjoys [it], proving to people he can do any sort of role.’’
If there is one area where Patrick Brown is teased, it’s his relationship to particular members of the Mara family — actresses Rooney and Kate Mara are his cousins. He sees the Mara family every year at Christmas but keeps a buffer zone between his famous cousins and his teammates.
“I see [Rooney] at Christmas mainly and Giants games when I get a chance to go,’’ said Brown. “But I don’t have her phone number so I can’t give it out to anyone. That’s what my teammates usually ask for.’’
When asked about it, Doug Brown laughed.
“Patrick’s had to take some heat, I’m sure, in a few locker rooms over the years on his cute cousins and their success,’’ he said. “That’s an interesting twist. We’re very proud of Katie and Rooney.’’
Doug Brown said he cherished his time playing at the old Boston Garden, whether it was the Beanpot or when he was a pro, and he knows Patrick does, too.
“Playing in the Boston Garden was lights-out, I just loved it,’’ Doug said. “The adrenaline and emotion of playing in the Garden, Patrick grew up playing in Joe Louis Arena, so I know he understands the importance of playing in an NHL rink. For me, your legs hardly touched the ice, you’re so excited to play, even as a pro going back there. It was always special.’’
Doug Brown said there was never any awe factor in being married to a Mara. At the time, his focus was on building his career in the NHL.
“I had my own dreams and aspirations,” he said. “If anything, my goals were to be the best I could be.”
That isn’t to say there wasn’t much to be learned from his father-in-law.
“It was great for me to have the opportunity to know Wellington Mara and listen carefully to his insight,’’ said Doug. “Whether it was the NHL or the NFL, or professional sports in general, and getting 80 years worth of history that he lived through, the perspective on management and the state of the league to the importance of caring for every single fan. It helps keep it in perspective as an athlete that we’re all in this together. The fans are the ones paying the bills and you need to treat them as family from a players’ standpoint as well as management. Respect for all. I think Wellington had a great perspective, and certainly the New York Giants have continued with brother John and the Tisch family in keeping that legacy alive.’’
Patrick Brown is adding to his family’s legacy at BC, and he has exceeded York’s expectations.
“We’ve had such great luck with NHL players’ sons, there is something about them,’’ said York. “They kind of grow up in that environment. Certainly, we didn’t think he was a top recruit for us but we thought there was something there. He has far exceeded anything we thought he might become with us. I’m tremendously excited about his development and what he’s brought to our team. He just forced himself into our lineup by getting better. This year, he’s exponentially better than he’s ever been during his first three years.’’
Brown said the struggles made the rewards that much sweeter.
“It’s been a lot of fun,’’ he said. “I’ve loved every second of it.’’
He is the most recent part of the legacy that promises to continue unabated.
“He’s following in the footsteps of his uncle and his dad and all the Maras who came,’’ said York. “There are some families who have sent a lot of generations to BC. But this one in particular with the sports backgrounds, and such a big family, it’s quite remarkable.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.