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Langenbrunner learned leadership from some greats

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- Jamie Langenbrunner isn't sure when he'll actually remove the message he received on New Year's Day from Team USA General Manager Brian Burke informing him of his Olympic selection.

"I was away from my phone when he called, but he just wanted to tell me that I was selected to represent the U.S. Olympic Team and then went through what my role will be," Langenbrunner told "He also talked about what an honor it is to represent your country. I saved the message so I can go back and listen to it whenever."

For Langenbrunner, the Olympic selection is certainly well deserved -- coming off a season in which he notched career highs with 29 goals, 40 assists and 69 points for New Jersey in 2008-09. And he hasn't slowed down this season, scoring 13 goals and 35 points in 40 games, including eight multiple-point contests. It'll also mark his first Olympic appearance for Team USA since the 1998 Games in Nagano.

There's also been talk throughout the media circles that not only will Langenbrunner fit right in with this U.S. Olympic lineup, but, perhaps, make a good captain as well. At this stage, though, that's something Langenbrunner doesn't concern himself with since a captain won't be determined until later.

"To be honest, I don't even think about that," Langenbrunner said. "I know what my role will be and that's not going to change whether I wear a letter or not. To even be talked about in those regards is a great honor and it's something I don't take lightly. I know there are several guys on this team who are well deserving of that honor too, and whichever way they decide, I don't think any of us are going to have a problem with it. It should be just exciting to be there and I'm excited about our chances once we get there."

Langenbrunner, who's captained the Devils for two-plus seasons now, has been surrounded by leaders practically his entire hockey life as a member of the Dallas Stars for seven-plus seasons before joining the Devils in 2002.

He's a player who consistently comes through in the clutch and relishes that role. When he was a wide-eyed rookie with the Stars during the 1996-97 season, he followed the lead of veteran Joe Nieuwendyk, who was in his 10th NHL season at the time.

"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."

But in addition to Nieuwendyk, Langenbrunner admits taking a little bit from many of the League's best throughout his career.

"Joe did it at a level that's hard to compare in my book, but I was fortunate to play with a lot of veteran players and good leaders from Joe, to Mike Keane, to Guy Carbonneau to Scott (Stevens) and Scott Niedermayer. When you have those kinds of influences around you, you learn a lot and use it any way you can."

Consider the fact his four career overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs rank second among active players in the League. While pressure may be something an athlete feels when not prepared, Langenbrunner has never really been in that predicament since preparation has always been a part of his repertoire.

In 1999, when the Stars won their first Stanley Cup, Langenbrunner figured in scoring on 7 of the team's 16 game-winning goals. In 2003, the Devils captured their third Stanley Cup in nine years thanks to Langenbrunner, who led the League and matched a New Jersey record with 4 game-winning goals in a playoff season.

"I think I handle pressure well and I enjoy being in those situations and, fortunately, I've been in a lot of them," Langenbrunner said. "If you're afraid to be put in those situations or afraid of failure, you're going to fail. I don't think that way. I want to be counted on; I want to be out there if it means stopping the last goal or trying to score it.

"I look forward to those situations and I've been fortunate to be on teams where I had a chance to be successful. The biggest thing is not being afraid to succeed or afraid to fail; just go out there and do it."

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."

Langenbrunner was happy that linemate Zach Parise and teammate Paul Martin also received calls to join him in Vancouver to represent Team USA.

"I don't think there was much question (Parise) was not going to be there," he said. "I'm excited for him and I know he's excited for his first Olympics. He's going to be counted on to do a lot of things but I can't say enough about what a great player he is and an underrated superstar in my mind. He's a guy who can do everything and do it well. Maybe he doesn't get the recognition he deserves for how good a player he is, and now it's a great opportunity for him to shine on a big stage."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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