Langenbrunner heads to second Olympics – this time wearing a ‘C’Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner will wear the captain’s “C” for the United States men’s hockey team in Vancouver – and he’s pretty sure nothing can compare to that honor so far in his successful career.
By: Jeff Papas, Kevin Pates and Lisa Baumann, Pine Journal
Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner will wear the captain’s “C” for the United States men’s hockey team in Vancouver – and he’s pretty sure nothing can compare to that honor so far in his successful career.
“As far as individual accomplishments, it’s right up there,” Langenbrunner told nhl.com. “I’ve never really prided myself on individual accomplishments, but I don’t think (anything) compares to this. I’ve been a player who’s been part of great teams and I’ve had great roles with those teams and to be singled out as captain for this team is definitely something that’s an honor.”
The selection of the 34-year-old New Jersey Devils’ captain to lead Team USA was announced on New Year’s Day. The next day in St. Paul, Langenbrunner scored a hat trick against the Wild. Two busloads of cheering Cloquet fans and more than 100 more who bought tickets from Langenbrunner’s family friend and Cloquet B&B Market owner Kim Lind were there to see his latest feat.
“We [took up] two sections – it was fantastic,” Lind said. “[The hat trick] was really neat and I always like it when the Devils win.”
One could say the year 2010 is starting well for Langenbrunner and he told the Pioneer Press as much a few weeks ago.
“[Being chosen for the Olympic team] was a pretty special day for me and my family,” he said. “And then to get your first career hat trick the next day was definitely a lot of fun.”
Langenbrunner is also in the middle of a successful season – he’s scored 45 points, including 14 goals, for New Jersey so far. This is his third year as the Devil’s captain and his 13th in the National Hockey League. Team USA general manager Brian Burke said the decision to name Langenbrunner captain was an easy one to make.
“We’ve had some difficult decisions … but the one thing we didn’t argue over was our captain,” Burke said. “Jamie is serving on an organization (New Jersey) that’s respected throughout the league. He’s been a model of consistency and of versatility. He’s a guy who does just about everything well on an ice surface and lots of things well in the dressing room.”
Langenbrunner’s teammate Zach Parise, who was named an Olympic alternate captain, recently shared his thoughts about his captain.
“[Langenbrunner’s] a type of guy in the dressing room who says things when something is needed to be said,” Parise told nhl.com. “I’ve been known to get worked up every now and again, and he’s there to set me straight and tell me not to get ahead of myself. The younger guys will find Jamie very helpful because he has that experience.”
Early days in Cloquet
Long before Langenbrunner became experienced in the NHL and Olympic teams, however, he made a name for himself in the Northland.
He was born in Duluth in 1975 although the family lived in Moose Lake at the time. When he was 1, the family moved for a short time to Moorhead before moving to International Falls in 1979. Langenbrunner was well into his skating career by age 5. They moved to Cloquet in 1985 and he was part of a team named Squirt City Champs that year. By 1989, Langenbrunner was playing hockey on a Bantam team.
As a high school Lumberjack in 1992-93, most Minnesota high school fans weren’t particularly familiar with Langenbrunner until Cloquet-Esko-Carlton got to the 1993 Tier I tournament. The junior center was a catalyst as the Lumberjacks scored 22 goals in three games to win the consolation trophy. He finished the season with 27 goals and 62 assists for 89 points in 28 games, breaking Corey Millen’s single-season school mark of 79 points. CEC finished 26-2, a program record for victories.
Langenbrunner was named the Associated Press Player of the Year, which was his final season of prep hockey.
When Langenbrunner was taken in the second round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (35th overall), the Dallas Stars asked him to skip college hockey and play for Peterborough, Ontario, in the Ontario Hockey League. It was an extremely rare path for a Minnesotan to take, but the 6-foot-1, 200-pound player went and was an immediate hit. In two Peterborough seasons he had 75 goals and 115 assists for 190 points in 124 games from 1993-95.
He spent 1995-96 with Michigan in the International Hockey League (a team MVP with 65 points in 59 games), while seeing action in 12 games with Dallas that season. He’s been in the NHL full-time since 1996-97, starting at age 21.
There were six years in Dallas and the last eight in New Jersey. Langenbrunner has taken turns as a checker and a scorer, and survived a few injuries to become an NHL constant.
“He’ll hit people, he’ll go into the corners, he’ll get in your face. He plays a tough game,” said former Cloquet and Minnesota Duluth star Derek Plante, 38, who played 450 games in the NHL, including 10 games with Dallas in winning the 1999 Stanley Cup. “He’s a well-rounded player, but I wouldn’t call him a grinder because he’s so talented.”
Still going strong
Langenbrunner says he’s improving with age because he’s learned from teammates like Joe Nieuwendyk, Guy Carbonneau, Brett Hull and journeyman Mike Keane.
“I learned how to treat people from Nieuwendyk, how to be a defensive player from Carbonneau, how to shoot a one-timer from Hull, and how to stay in the game from Keane,” Langenbrunner said. “I wasn’t big on off-season training, but I found out how important that is. The last couple of years I’ve felt the best I have in a long time. I’m comfortable.”
In 2006, he signed a five-year contract with the Devils worth $14 million, or about $2.8 million a year. When signing, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello called him “the prototypical Devils player.”
Langenbrunner and his wife, Elizabeth, come back to a home in Moose Lake, with their three children Laine, 11; Landon, 9; and Mason, 7. Langenbrunner can often be found playing golf at Cloquet Country Club with former CEC coach Tom McFarlane. The 2009 Cloquet Invitational men’s title was claimed by Langenbrunner in July.
“If you talk with people in the NHL they’ll tell you the same thing about Jamie – he has integrity, he’s humble, he’s a role model,” said McFarlane, employed by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. “There’s a banner hanging in the Cloquet high school rink that shows Jamie and Derek with the 1999 Stanley Cup and it says ‘Dreams Can Come True.’ And two players from our program proved it.”
Current CEC coach Dave Esse agreed.
“What an honor for Jamie to be selected to wear the ‘C’ and represent our country in this year’s winter Olympics,” he added. “To be chosen as the leader says a lot about his skill level and character. His work ethic and passion for the game makes him such a great role model for all youth to follow. He is a guy from our small town who made his dreams come true and continues to get better with age.”
Langenbrunner also played for the United States in the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. He represented the United States in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and in the 1994 and 1995 World Junior championships.
He has worn the red, white and blue 20 times in international play, scoring three goals and adding one assist.
The U.S. Olympic Team will be coached by Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with New York Islanders coach Scott Gordon and New York Rangers coach John Tortorella assisting.
The Americans will begin play at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver on Feb. 16 with a game against Switzerland. The gold medal game will be played Feb. 28.