The voice of a giggling child in the background suggests Dustin Brown has reclaimed some normalcy in his life.
The Los Angeles Kings' captain now has his family with him in Switzerland.
"They’ve been here about two weeks now," Brown told ESPN.com Thursday on the phone from Zurich. "It’s totally different with them here. It’s nice and relaxing."
With his wife and three boys in Zurich, it’s about as much normalcy as he’s going to get these days. After all, six months after raising the Stanley Cup over his head, Brown still hasn’t begun defending his title while the NHL remains plagued by a labor impasse.
Instead, he has put up 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 games with former NHL coach Marc Crawford’s Zurich squad and, truth be told, he is enjoying the experience.
"It’s been good, the hockey is pretty good," said Brown, who played the best hockey of his career last spring. "The travel and lifestyle is good. Zurich is pretty centrally located, so I think the longest trip we had to a game was three hours. So we sleep in our bed most nights.
"My kids’ school is literally a football’s throw, so that’s nice. Everything has been good."
Planning for the possibility of a prolonged lockout, and perhaps even no NHL season, Brown had his family in mind when he chose to sign in Zurich.
"I’ve had offers in Russia and the money was better there but, at the end of the day, I wanted to protect myself for the whole year," he said. "This here provided the best combination of hockey and family life."
In the meantime, he keeps close tabs on the NHL labor talks.
"I’ve been on a lot of [players’] conference calls," Brown said. "I asked to get added to the call list so I can get more information and stay as updated as I can. Although now that I’m playing, quite honestly, I don’t think about it quite as much as I did before. When I was still in L.A., every single day it’s all I thought about. Now that I’m over here and keeping busy, I don’t think about it all the time, but obviously I still follow it closely."
Like many people, he sees both sides not being that far from a deal but has learned not to be surprised at anything in this frustrating process.
"I’m not there in the meetings, but from what I hear, it sure sounds like they’re close, so who knows," he said.
Even if the lockout ends soon and the puck drops in a few weeks, the damage is done. And in Los Angeles, it’s an opportunity lost after all the attention the sport garnered last spring.
"At the end of the day, it’s unfortunate timing for a lockout," Brown said. "I mean, lockouts are always unfortunate but, considering our market in California, it’s really hard to get momentum. And to lose that momentum due to a lockout is frustrating. The positive thing is that we still have those die-hard fans that will be really excited about the banner-raising, and we still have that part if there is a season this year. That excitement from that first game would bring attention back to hockey in L.A. because it’s such an important night for our team and organization, but it’s definitely unfortunate to have lost all the momentum that we had gained."