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Hockey star is paying it forward

Retired NHL hockey player and Cloquet native Jamie Langenbrunner keeps a watchful eye on his Peewee AA players at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

It’s evident right away when you watch the Jamie-Langenbrunner-coached Peewee AA team that everybody on the team has a shot. Maybe not a shot at the NHL, like Langenbrunner himself capitalized on, but a shot as in a wicked hard shot.

In warmups before games, the team of 12- and 13-year-olds whistles shots from just inside the blue line. It’s an impressive parade of slamming shots into goalie Owen Carlson and his net, or rapping shots off the boards. It’s not just a core group of stellar guys who can do this, either. It’s every single guy on the 15-member team. Every one of them seems capable of denting a goalie’s pride.

“Youth hockey is where they learn that competitive edge and that willingness to do the extra work,” Langenbrunner said. “That’s going and shooting extra pucks and doing the things that make you better.”

If their success is an indication, Langenbrunner’s team is full of players who put in the extra work.

On Monday in Duluth, the team came from 4-1 down to start the third period to beat Duluth East, 5-4, in regulation. Langenbrunner’s oldest son, Landon, capped the rally by scoring the game-winner with under two minutes remaining. The win earned Cloquet the top seed in February’s District 11 playoffs.  

“We didn’t start out well those first two periods,” said defenseman Dane Stoyanoff. “Coach got on us and told us we had to start working hard and everybody took it to heart.”

Langenbrunner retired Jan. 15 from an 18-year NHL career. He’ll continue to do some scouting for the St. Louis Blues, who were the last stop on his playing career. He returned home this past summer with his family and reinserted himself into Cloquet hockey. He’s instilling in this new generation of players an ethic that served him well in his decorated career.   

“My belief is you can always control how hard you work and how hard you compete,” he said.

Stoyanoff recalled watching his coach during those NHL and Olympic playing days.

“He was always one of the hardest workers on the ice,” Stoyanoff said. “He’ll tell you if you’re playing good or if you’re not playing your best. As a player you just have to not take it too badly and take it to heart.”

Langenbrunner’s team features a roster ripe with some of the town’s best young talent. The message he wants to get across to his players, though, isn’t about capitalizing on individual success. It’s about something bigger.

“There are great times and great memories from things that happen along the way,” Langenbrunner said. “Some of my closest friends today are kids I played Squirt hockey with, Peewee hockey with. These are lifelong friendships.

“There are things you learn playing hockey that are going to transfer into a million other things you’re going to do.”

For Stoyanoff and Co., the best memories might be just around the corner. They’ve beaten teams from across the state this season. They won a huge tournament in hockey hotbed Roseau. They’ve got to be a favorite for a possible state championship.

“When everybody has their feet moving and we share the puck, we’re really hard to beat,” Stoyanoff said. “It’s been a very good year and everything, but we can’t take it too much that we’re the top seed or we might lay an egg. We just have to keep winning games.”

Langenbrunner won a lot of games in his career. He was part of just two losing campaigns in his two-time Stanley Cup winning career.

But it always seemed most important to him that those around him were winning and enjoying themselves, too.

“Honestly, I’m honored to have these banners up here,” Langenbrunner said one day last week while looking around Northwoods Credit Union Arena. “But I’m more honored to see the guys I lo