Saturday, February 20, 2010

Langenbrunner on being Captain America

International hockey's been a bit of a strange road for Jamie Langenbrunner.

Named to the 1998 Olympic team in Nagano at age 22, midway through his second full NHL season, he then wasn't invited back for Salt Lake City in 2002. Nor Turin in 2006.

Twelve years after that first appearance at the Games, he's now the 34-year-old captain of an American team that has 14 members 25 and under.

Langenbrunner's coming off his best season in the NHL last year, a 29-goal, 69-point campaign in which he was also plus-25. He's also emerged as a top defensive player and a leader, as in addition to captaining the Olympic team he wears the 'C' for the Devils.

Langenbrunner's a small-town guy from Minnesota and has a pretty straightforward approach to answering questions. I had the chance to chat with him briefly this year about how he'd approach leading such a young group. 

"You're named captain and you're put in those situations because of the way you do things," Langenbrunner said. "If you go out and try and change who you are and the way you prepare, you're not being the person who you're supposed to be. I'm going to keep playing the way I always have."

He was also asked if he had any special insight into how the U.S. team could beat his Devils teammate, Marty Brodeur.
"He's been in the league 18, 19 years - if he had any secrets, they'd be out there," he said. "He's one of those special goalies that plays such a unique style that there's not just one thing that works on him."

Langenbrunner added that, with so many Olympians in the Devils dressing room (including U.S. blueliner Brian Rafalski and sniper Zach Parise, Czech winger Patrik Elias and Swedish defenceman Johnny Oduya), there had been a little trash talking going on.

He said he and Marty, in particular, know what's coming having been through this before with the World Cup in 2004. 

"We joke a little bit, but you know it's one of those subjects where you joke kind of but we both realize how serious its going to be when we get there," Langenbrunner said. "As good of friends as we are here, I think we've both kind of decided we'll say 'hi' and that's about it for a few weeks. That's the way you've got to prepare and approach those things I think."

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