This article originally appeared in Sportsnet Magazine.
If you stand on the deck of Drew Doughty’s house and gaze across the expanse of his generous backyard, you’ll see a stand of pine trees. And in those trees, to the left of the tennis court and the basketball hoop and the glistening pool, is a play structure with swings, a slide—the whole bit. And up above there are the bones of a tree fort. You can’t help yourself. You have to ask. “Drew, is that yours, or . . .?”
Turns out it’s not. The Los Angeles Kings defenceman, a 24-year-old who cheerfully puts the “child” in man-child, merely inherited the playground equipment when he bought the house in a tony subdivision on the outskirts of London, Ont., his hometown, five years ago. The house itself is large, but hardly ostentatious. There is a main-floor office, but it appears to be mostly decorative. The rest of the dreamscape—a tribute to his teenaged subconscious—is all his, including the custom-made, pearl-white pool table in his dining room.
“I saw Lenny Kravitz’s pool table somewhere on the Internet and I was like, ‘I want that,’” says Doughty. “When I go to bars in L.A. where people play pool all the time, I can hold the table. It’s fun.”
There is a difference between childlike and childish. Childlike is a wonderful thing. It implies enthusiasm, kindness, openness and a certain honesty. Doughty is very much childlike, if that child is about 14 years old and loves playing hockey, hanging at the beach and trashing his buddies at video games or tennis or Ping-Pong or basketball or golf, which is pretty much how he spends every waking moment of his off-season, split between his house and the family cottage he splurged on after signing his first big NHL contract.
He doesn’t like working out all that much but understands it’s an important aspect of being perhaps the best defenceman in the world—kind of like doing your math homework. In the age of the robo-athlete, where elite-level athleticism seems to require monk-like asceticism, this makes Doughty a refreshing iconoclast. Let Sidney Crosby peddle his earnestness in Reebok commercials where he trains like a Navy Seal and Steven Stamkos eat his Gary Roberts–approved organic kale and P.K. Subban post Instagram pictures of himself performing ever-more daunting feats of strength. Dewy will remain Dewy.
At the moment it’s mid-August. Hockey, and the L.A. Kings’ miraculous Stanley Cup run, couldn’t seem further away, which is how Doughty likes it. He’s been on the ice three times, about 30 times less than some of his peers.
“When I go home for the summer, I just want to get away from hockey,” he says. “I just need to mentally and physically get away from the game and enjoy myself.”
He reasons that he doesn’t want to waste himself in the summers when the plan is to be playing nearly 30 minutes a night come June. Accordingly, a scan of Doughty’s Twitter account—92,000 followers hang on for his roughly once-a-month missives—reveals no mention of his off-season sacrifices leading to in-season glory. The emphasis is decidedly on the spoils of victory. There is him saying so long to L.A. (“Best time of our lives the party don’t stop #boysrhurtin”), and then a photo of him and his beloved beagle, Reggie, poolside in London with Lord Stanley’s mug gleaming in the sun: “Can’t wait to party my ass off with family and friends.”
Social media aside, a generation ago such proclamations would have been no big deal. Summer was summer. Of course you partied your ass off when you won the Stanley Cup. Why wouldn’t you? It’s just that now a young professional athlete acknowledging he enjoys himself can seem like a betrayal of some kind of carefully crafted image of determined self-denial. Dewy doesn’t completely subscribe to the orthodoxy.
His image isn’t bad boy as much as it is good times, but still people take notice—so much so that he has his own South Park–inspired cartoon on YouTube titled The Dewy Show. There are only two episodes so far (his old Kings teammate Dustin Penner is executive producer, lending a certain authenticity) and in each one the plot centres around Doughty and his roommate Trevor Lewis unsuccessfully trying to host a post–Stanley Cup “Epic Rager”—only to be outdone by veteran party throwers and Kings teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. They are hilarious, and Doughty retweets them.
“I want to say I have the funnest life of anyone in the world,” he says a few weeks before he’s scheduled to leave London for his condo in Hermosa Beach, Calif., the one with the view of the Pacific Ocean from the rooftop hot tub. “Any chance I have to have fun—well, not before a game or anything like that—I am going to take that chance.”
The best part is that his off-ice attitude and on-ice persona mesh perfectly. With a world junior title, two Olympic golds and two Stanley Cups to his credit at age 24, the only other member of his peer group who can match his resumé is 26-year-old Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews, who goes by the well-earned nickname Captain Serious. Dewy proves it needn’t always be so.
“He doesn’t put too much thought into too many things,” says Penner, who won Stanley Cups with Doughty in 2012 and Scott Niedermayer in 2007, and holds both men in similar regard. “That’s not to say it in a bad way—he’s just carefree. He’s like, ‘Whatever happens, I’m going to be on the ice in two hours, go top shelf, win, go home and watch Family Guy.’ It’s a very easy lifestyle and that’s what draws people to him and makes him the player that he is.”
Doughty might be onto something. He has missed only 16 of a possible 518 regular-season and playoff games over his six seasons. This past spring, he logged an NHL playoff record 748 minutes (breaking Chris Pronger’s mark of 743 from 2006) in the L.A. Kings’ long and winding road to the Stanley Cup—they went to a seventh game in their first three series before managing to dispense the New York Rangers in the final in five games. There are almost certainly multiple Norris Trophies in his near future. And except when he’s in the midst of a referee-inspired temper tantrum—he says his calm comes from his father, Paul, and his fire from his mother, Connie—most of the time he’s just Dewy, and Dewy has a good time playing hockey.
“He gets rocked and he gets up laughing,” says Penner. “He chirps you as you play and laughs at you when you fall down or lose the puck. He makes it look so easy and he’s sticking it to you when you’re down and on top of that he’s having so much fun.”
This tends to drive people crazy until they get to know him—and then they love him.
Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t happy when he learned that Doughty was going to be his roommate in Pardubice, Czech Republic, for the World Junior Championship in 2008. The star forward of the Owen Sound Attack had no time for the star defenceman of the Guelph Storm, rivals in the OHL’s Midwest Division.
“I hated him. I despised him,” says Simmonds. “He never shuts up, he’s just annoying . . . so every time I got a chance I tried to drive him through the end boards.”
That didn’t last, of course. In the end, it’s Doughty’s sincerity that wears people down.
He doesn’t change. Says his girlfriend Nicole Arruda, who has known him since they were in Grade 9 when he tried and failed to gain her attention at a soccer game: “He’s the same guy now he was then. He’s just as annoying. He’s just more mature now.”
Simmonds says the two were buddies by their first night rooming together and when the pair of them made the Kings as rookies in 2008–09, they ended up sharing a condo.
“I can honestly say for the two and a half years I lived with him there was never a dull moment, just because he’s always light-hearted,” says Simmonds. “If he’s in a bad mood he’s laughing five minutes later. He forgets about everything quick. That’s the best thing about him.”
Take, for example, his goal for the ages in game one of the Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers. It was remarkable not just because of the skill Doughty displayed but also because it came on the heels of an egregious mistake in the first period in which the right-shooting Doughty tried to curl-and-drag a loose puck at the blueline, drifting to the left-hand boards and leaving the middle of the ice wide open. The Rangers’ Benoit Pouliot stripped Doughty and scored on the uncontested breakaway.
Doughty was on the ice and helpless when Carl Hagelin raced by him a moment later for another breakaway goal, this one short-handed to make it 2–0 New York. These events don’t seem to bother Doughty, whose confidence seems unshakable.
“If I make a mistake, I’m going to go out there the next shift and make the very same play—I don’t care,” he says. “Well, I do care, but I’m going to try it again just to prove I can do it.”
He tied the game on his highlight-reel goal in the second period, driving the net and taking a cross-ice pass between his legs before squeezing it past Henrik Lundqvist.
“You see stuff like that,” says Penner, “And you just go: ‘Wow.’”
That was June, and today—while Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon are getting ready for a week of pre-camp altitude training in Aspen to put a cap on their off-season preparations—Doughty is still finding ways to enjoy the last moments of his summer. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t put in the time to get back to that stage. That Doughty doesn’t work hard in the off-season is a myth that his longtime trainer, Jeff Van Damme, would love to see put to rest, much of it stemming from when a junk-food fuelled Doughty finished his last year of junior at 230 lb. and earned the nickname “Doughnuts.”
It’s not that Doughty doesn’t train—he just knows the difference between work and play, and the importance of keeping hockey a game, rather than a year-round chore.
“I love that kid,” says Van Damme, who owns the Training Station in London. “In nine years, he’s never been late. He never complains or says anything is too hard. He’s supposed to be this easy-come, easy-go guy, but when it’s time to work, he’s 100 percent committed.”
What makes Doughty special? Van Damme cites his otherworldly balance and remarkable stamina, but is most impressed by the kid he remembers folding the blankets after taking a nap on the couch in the gym’s waiting room or coming back on his off-day to try and find a reflex ball that had gone astray during a workout the previous day. “He’s so down-to-earth,” says Van Damme.
That the Kings are even approaching modern-dynasty status could in some way be attributable to the way their best player (with apologies to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick) lets go of his superstar status the moment he leaves the ice.
The Kings are a close-knit group, and Doughty often finds himself in the middle of things. He could easily afford to live alone but prefers a roommate. After Simmonds was traded to the Flyers, Trevor Lewis moved in. They are two peas in a messy pod.
The Cribs-style tour they gave of their pad for Fox Sports West host Alex Curry is a classic of the genre. Doughty explains—straight-faced—why Denzel Washington should play him in a movie and how he hates Mexican food because burritos make him need to go to the bathroom, and finishes the show by suggesting a slightly grossed-out Curry should “come back on Wednesday next time—that’s when the cleaning lady is here.”
The Kings have grown up together (using the term loosely), and no one seems happier about having a room full of bros to share good times with than their franchise defenceman.
“We’re all neighbours,” he says. “Everyone on the team lives five minutes from each other, which is unbelievable. If you want to go to dinner you make one call and you have five guys going for dinner.”
Being rich and the best player on the team and getting epic amounts of ice time could easily make Doughty the object of resentment in different circumstances. But Doughty is as hard to resent as he is to resist. “He’s genuine and people appreciate that,” says Simmonds. “There’s nothing fake about that guy. Not one thing fake.”
This is a guy who, on his first trip to Los Angeles, just after being drafted, waded into the Pacific Ocean with his street clothes on, losing his cellphone and his wallet in the surf. His parents had to wire money to someone in the Kings’ front office.
“It was just chaos,” says Doughty, who volunteers the story. “That’s one of my first L.A. memories, losing all my stuff on the beach.”
These moments are common enough to be known as “Dewy-isms.”
The time when the boys were talking about fly-fishing and Doughty thought it meant dropping a line from a low-flying plane? That’s a Dewyism. When the Kings’ charter was turning over Catalina Island and Quick told him it was Hawaii and Doughty believed him? That’s a Dewyism.
Even in our conversation, Doughty couldn’t remember where the Toronto Maple Leafs used to play (“Maple Leaf Gardens?” I offer) or when we were talking about his role as a youth ambassador for McDonald’s and he spoke about the responsibility he feels because he remembers the impact meeting his first NHLer had on him. “Who did you meet?” I ask. “This is sad,” he says. “I don’t remember who it was. I have to ask my mom.” So Dewy.
The best thing about kids is that they’re authentic. What you see is what you get. And that’s also one of the best things about Drew Doughty.