LOS ANGELES — Drew Doughty calls it “back in the day.” The time before the Los Angeles Kings had won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Before that magical 2012 run, during which they only lost four times on their way to the championship. Back when they were still nobodies in the vast American city better known for the Lakers, Dodgers, and Trojans.
He kind of misses those days.
“It’s changed drastically,” Doughty said. “I don’t know if I like it better or not. I for sure don’t like it better, actually. We’ll go out for dinner – the beards we all have don’t help – but back in the day we could just pretty much roll in anywhere, and there’s no way anyone would know who you were, no possible way. And now it seems like everywhere we do go, we are getting recognized.
“It’s kind of more like a Canada, when you’re back in home in Canada. It’s great because we’re bringing more fans to the game, we’re making hockey a presence in California. But that was kind of the bonus of playing here, too – you could do what you wanted and not get in trouble for it.”
The problem for Doughty is the Kings are back in the Cup final again in 2014, and they’re favored to beat the New York Rangers and claim another title.
“I’d rather have the problem and be a winner, than not have the problem and lose,” he said.
Because, for Doughty, winning is what drives him. Games, we mean. Not awards. Sure, he’d like to be recognized with a Norris Trophy sometime, but he’d rather put his name on the Cup a few more times.
“My ultimate thing is just winning,” he said. “That’s all I care about, being a winner and helping this team win. I’ll do anything it takes.”
Of course, there have been times in his still-young career when that competitiveness would “get the best of him,” according to Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.
And Doughty admits he still has his lapses.
For example, “Last game against the Blackhawks I wasn’t very good in the first period. I played a lot better after that, but I put maybe a little bit too much pressure on myself, tried to do too much on my own.”
And, “Sometimes I still snap and lose it on the refs, which I hate doing.”
But at just 24 years old, Doughty has already won a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals, while his play at both ends of the ice has drawn comparisons to some of the all-time greats at the position.
“I think [Chris] Chelios was the best all-around defenseman that I had the opportunity to coach,” said L.A. bench boss Darryl Sutter. “So I’d say that Drew would be trending more towards that type of player in terms of the all-around part of it, in terms of the whole package part of it.”