Langenbrunner 'not ready to retire yet'The Duluth Heritage Sports Center had a tribute lined up for NHL veteran Jamie Langenbrunner on Tuesday night.
By: Rick Weegman, Pine Journal
The Duluth Heritage Sports Center had a tribute lined up for NHL veteran Jamie Langenbrunner on Tuesday night.
The former Cloquet High School star was to be feted for his 18-year playing career, one which organizers of a fundraising hockey game at the Heritage Center apparently believed to be over after hip surgery ended Langenbrunner’s season with the St. Louis Blues after just four games.
But the ceremony was a late scratch as Langenbrunner has no plans to retire.
“I’m not ready yet,” he said before taking the ice at the Heritage Summer Hockey Classic. “After going through the surgery [for a torn labrum], I feel as good as I have as far as skating. It’s great to get to a point where there’s no pain skating, and I’m looking forward to continuing my training this summer and see where it takes me.”
An unrestricted free agent, Langenbrunner can sign with any team.
“It’s a process of waiting to see what teams need,” he said. “They went through their prospect camps, and then teams reconvene and figure out what they want to do — whether they want to bring in a veteran guy or if they are going to go young. We’ll see in the next couple weeks if there’s a good opportunity, and, if not, then I will figure out the next stage of life.”
If Langenbrunner has his way, it would be as a member of the Minnesota Wild. His wife, Elizabeth, works as an intern in the state prison system; their daughter, Laine, will be a sophomore at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.; and their sons, Landon and Mason, are involved in youth hockey. In other words, the home state team would be a perfect fit.
“I’ve been pushing my (agent) to do some talking (to the Wild) for me,” said Langenbrunner, who has been staying at his lake home in Sturgeon Lake since mid-June. “That would, obviously, be the ideal situation from a family standpoint. I understand what they are trying to do (with recent personnel moves) and who knows what their choice will be, but I would welcome an opportunity to play there.”
The Wild, or any team, could do worse than adding a proven winner and locker-room leader to their roster. The right winger has 243 goals and 420 assists in 1,109 games and played a key role on Stanley Cup-winning teams in Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003. He also captained the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.
But the 2012-13 season was Langenbrunner’s toughest. An impasse in contract negotiations and subsequent lockout meant nearly half the NHL season was lost.
“It was a tough season mentally,” said Langenbrunner, a member of the NHL Players’ Association negotiating committee. “Physically, injuries are a part of the game so you just move on from that. But, mentally, the lockout was draining on guys. You sit week to week, waiting and waiting. For me, it was a little easier because I had two young boys playing [hockey] so I started coaching them and traveling with their teams. But the unknown was the hard part.”
When play resumed, Langenbrunner lasted four games before his hip injury caused him to lose feeling in his leg. A magnetic resonance imaging scan revealed the torn labrum.
Two months after his mid-February surgery, Langenbrunner was back skating and even considered returning to practice.
“I was not far off from playing if we had continued to win,” he said.
Now he hopes to continue a career that has included two stints in Dallas, one in New Jersey and the past two seasons in St. Louis.
University of Minnesota Duluth men’s assistant coach Derek Plante, who preceded Langenbrunner at Cloquet and played alongside him in Dallas, knows teams would benefit by acquiring the 37-year-old.
“He’s always competed at such a high level that it’s not a surprise [he’s played 18 years],” Plante said. “Guys don’t play that long on accident. He plays so many different roles — he can play with your best players or on the worst line, on the power play or penalty kill.”
Plante and Langenbrunner played on the same team in Tuesday night’s benefit game, 14 years after they raised the Stanley Cup together with the Stars. The former UMD star has further perspective, however, having watched Langenbrunner play as a youth on his brother’s squads.
“I’ve been able to watch him grow up … and to watch him do what he’s done is pretty amazing,” Plante said.