It’s simple, northern Minnesota is home for Jamie LangenbrunnerCount to one thousand. Chances are, it will take you awhile to get there. Now do it again, but wait 60 minutes between each digit. That will take you even longer. When Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner suits up for the Dallas Stars next Monday night against Los Angeles, he will join an elite group of players. Through the 94-year history of the NHL, only 255 men have played in 1,000 games.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Count to one thousand. Chances are, it will take you awhile to get there.
Now do it again, but wait 60 minutes between each digit. That will take you even longer.
When Cloquet’s Jamie Langenbrunner suits up for the Dallas Stars next Monday night against Los Angeles, he will join an elite group of players. Through the 94-year history of the NHL, only 255 men have played in 1,000 games.
Monday night, Langenbrunner will add his name to the list.
It’s an amazing feat.
“I wouldn’t have guessed it,” Langenbrunner said this week. “I would never have thought all those years ago that I’d do that. I was worried about playing for the high school team.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he added. “I’ve been fortunate to be in this league for a long time. I’ve played for two great organizations, I’ve had a lot of success, and I definitely never could have dreamed this would happen.”
Yet through it all, Langenbrunner, 35, hasn’t forgotten his northern Minnesota roots.
“Wow,” Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys hockey coach Dave Esse said Tuesday night when informed of Langenbrunner’s pending milestone. “And through all that, he’s been Jamie.”
That’s a nice tribute. Clearly and truly, Langenbrunner hasn’t forgotten his roots. That’s one of the things that make him special.
Making a lot of money playing in the world’s greatest hockey league, it would be easy to simply withdraw from the world. Not Langenbrunner. He always makes time to return a call from the hometown newspaper, and even though there’s a lot on his plate now, he’s happy to talk about home.
“People asked me in Jersey why I didn’t stay out there in the summertime,” Langenbrunner said. “It was simple. Minnesota is home.”
In the summer, home is where you’ll find him.
Last summer, he returned for Esse’s summer hockey camp in Cloquet.
“He brought his silver medal from the Olympics, he posed for pictures with the kids with it, he even let them wear it,” Esse said.
“During the summer, you’ll see him at restaurants, doing things for charity, even on the golf course,” he added. “It hasn’t changed him. He’s just a good guy.”
Langenbrunner also donated items from his Olympic experience for the annual hockey program golf scramble last summer.
He’s donated repeatedly to Cloquet youth hockey through the years and says it’s all about
“That’s one of the great things about growing up in Cloquet,” Langenbrunner said. “It’s the support that you do get, that I received throughout. I love going back there in the summer. I come home annually. It’s always home and it always will be.”
Langenbrunner still stays in touch with those key people in his support network as well.
“Obviously Tom McFarlane had a huge influence on my career, from what he taught and what he demanded from me,” Langenbrunner said. “There are a ton of people and I don’t want to leave any of them out. I think of Denny Koster, all the guys at the rink, so many of them. Sherm Liimatainen, all those guys who helped build the program and get it recognized everywhere. I appreciate them.”
What it boils down to is that when Langenbrunner comes home, he’s the most visible symbol of the Cloquet hockey program. Yet he chooses to
“Those people are the reason you can take the name of Cloquet in hockey circles and people know it,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”
Esse, though, knows that it works both ways.
“He’s a role model,” the coach said. “He is proof that people can work hard and have good things happen to them.”
There are a couple of obvious questions for Langenbrunner as his milestone nears.
First, how long will he keep playing?
“If you had asked me a month and a half ago, I’d have said I was close to done,” Langenbrunner said. “It was getting tough. But there have been more than a few people in my career who have said to play as long as you possibly can, because nothing compares to it.”
“It’s the mind and the body both,” he added. “My body is holding out but the mind is key. Getting a fresh start here in Dallas will help a bit.”
The second question: Will he want to finish his career in Minnesota?
“That has always been intriguing to me,” Langenbrunner said. “The opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet. So far it hasn’t been a good fit for them or for me. Obviously, Minnesota is home but lots of things would have to happen.”
Langenbrunner can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, yet his old friend, Stars’ general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, has already indicated he’d like to bring his former linemate back for another season in Dallas. Yet with the financially-strapped Stars being financed in part by the NHL, his trade from New Jersey had to be approved by the league before it could take place.
Stars owner Tom Hicks had to sell his Texas Rangers in bankruptcy court last year and also was forced out of his co-ownership role of England’s Liverpool FC. Yet that doesn’t matter to Langenbrunner, who just wants to play hockey.
He also wants to pay his debt to Nieuwendyk forward.
“Joe showed me the ropes and made me feel comfortable,” Langenbrunner said. “He’s one of my best friends in hockey. I did that a little bit with Zach Parise in New Jersey. I’m nine years older than Zach and Joe is nine years older than me.”
“Zach spent the last day in Jersey with me waiting for the trade,” Langenbrunner said. “I went to their house. We’ll stay friends and I’m sure I’ll see him in the summer. You try to help all your teammates along, but certain friendships bond.”
Ah, friendships. They’re important in games and important in life.
“The great thing about Jamie is that he knows who his friends are,” Esse said.
Friends are important – especially when a NHL player counts to one thousand.