So it's a pretty big deal when the Dallas Stars' general manager admits he'd go to battle with Jamie Langenbrunner any day of the week. Particularly on a day when Langenbrunner was appointed captain of the U.S. Olympic team headed to Vancouver next month.
"I said before and have told him in the past that if there was a guy I was going to go to war with, Jamie would be the guy because I saw that intensity first-hand in some of our Stanley Cup Playoff runs," Nieuwendyk told NHL.com. "Jamie was very respectful of his peers and he just came in, did his job and worked hard. He was very observant of a lot of things going on around him and he identified what he thought was right and what he thought was wrong. I think he gravitated toward team-type stuff and people that he thought were good leaders who showed him the way."
Langenbrunner credits Nieuwendyk, winner of three Stanley Cups for three teams (Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey) for teaching him the importance of leadership both on and off the ice during his early years. He followed the lead of Nieuwendyk, his roommate, when he first entered the League in 1994-95 with the Stars.
"I learned so much from Joe," Langenbrunner said. "I learned how to treat your teammates and the guys around the team, including the training staff, the public relations guy and everyone else that completes the organization.
"He treated everyone with respect and dignity and made everyone feel a part of everything -- whether it was the black ace being called up during the playoffs or the team's superstar, Mike Modano. I think you'll have a very hard time finding any of his past teammates saying anything negative about him."
Said Nieuwendyk: "We kind of got to the Stars at the same time -- I got traded from Calgary and I was trying to get used to my surroundings and that was kind of the time that Jamie was starting out as a young guy and they roomed us together right away. It didn't take long to figure out that he was a special person and a special talent. He proved that over our time together in Dallas."
Nieuwendyk is excited that Langenbrunner will wear the "C" for Team USA in the Winter Olympics. Nieuwendyk, in fact, competed in the Winter Olympics twice for Team Canada -- winning a gold medal in 2002.
"I think it's going to be awesome for him -- what a thrill," he said. "You always think about the 'Miracle on Ice' and what captain Mike Eruzione did and now Jamie's going to be wearing the 'C.' What a great honor. I think he should be really proud of it."
Nieuwendyk, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading Dallas to the 1999 Stanley Cup behind six game-winning goals in the postseason, is proud of the fact he was such an influence on the career of Langenbrunner.
"That's what you kind of strive for," he said. "You battle and you compete hard over the course of your career and when you leave impressions like that, in some ways, it's more valuable than some of the hardware you win along the way. So that does make me feel good. I have a lot of respect for Jamie and players like that. They are great kids and great teammates and that's very important."
Langenbrunner became the eighth captain in Devils' history on Dec. 5, 2007.
"I think he's a guy who has played with a lot of great players coming from Dallas," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "With Brett Hull, Nieuwendyk, Craig Ludwig and Guy Carbonneau -- for him it was only a matter of time to become an important factor as far as leadership is concerned for any team he played for."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com