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Team USA names Langenbrunner Olympic captain

by Mike G. Morreale
Don't think for a second Jamie Langenbrunner is going to change now that he's been named captain of the U.S. Olympic Team headed to Vancouver.

This leadership stuff percolates within his veins. He's been around leaders for as long as he can remember and has worn the New Jersey Devils' captain's "C" the past three seasons.

"I don't think I've really changed since the day I was named captain in New Jersey," Langenbrunner said. "I still go about preparing for a game the same way and the way I treat people in the dressing room. I plan on being that way long after I'm done with hockey, too. If you think you have to change or do something different, then you're not being who you are and forgetting why you were picked in the first place."

Langenbrunner, a 13-season veteran, will be assisted by alternate captains Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter and Brian Rafalski. The leadership roles were announced by Team USA General Manager Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson Monday. Team USA's roster, with an average age of 26.5, includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies. Rafalski is the oldest player at 36 and Patrick Kane the youngest at 21.

Burke said Langenbrunner was the logical choice to lead Team USA.

"We've have some difficult decisions, long discussions and some vitriolic, profanity-laced arguments through this selection process, but the one thing we didn't argue over was our captain," Burke said. "Jamie is serving on an organization (New Jersey) that's respected throughout the League. He's been a model of consistency and of versatility. He's a guy who does just about everything well on an ice surface and lots of things well in the dressing room."

Burke was asked about the New Jersey connection assigned to leadership duty, including current Devils' forwards Langenbrunner and Parise and former defenseman Rafalski.

"That was something that kept coming up -- the fact this guy played in the New Jersey system," Burke said. "Rafalski cut his teeth with the Devils and Jamie has gone through that whole process of watching guys check their ego at the door and do their jobs. A lot of this team selection and captaincy selection is a tribute to (Devils President/CEO/GM) Lou Lamoriello, who, of course, has been a giant with USA Hockey. No question that was a factor."

Earning the captaincy for Team USA is something Langenbrunner won't take for granted.

"As far as individual accomplishments, it's right up there," he said. "I've never really prided myself on individual accomplishments, but I don't think nothing compares to this. I've been a player who's been part of great teams and I've had great roles with those teams and to be singled out as captain for this team is definitely something that's an honor."

Even when his name had been mentioned as a possible candidate as early as last week, he deflected the notion, saying every American player selected to the 23-man roster was a leader in their own right.

"He's a type of guy in the dressing room that says things when something is needed to be said," said Devils' alternate captain Parise. "I've been known to get worked up every now and again, and he's there to set me straight and tell me not to get ahead of myself. The younger guys will find Jamie very helpful because he has that experience."

Langenbrunner, 34, is 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, registering 13 goals and 40 points in 43 games, including 10 multiple-point contests.

He's currently riding a seven-game point-scoring streak, posting 5 goals and 6 assists over that stretch. It'll also mark his first Olympic appearance for Team USA since the 1998 Games in Nagano -- when the club finished sixth in the tournament.

Pressure has never seemed to faze Langenbrunner either and there's no question that also played a big part in the decision to name him captain. Consider the fact his four career overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs rank tied for first -- with Chris Drury -- among active players in the League.

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.

In order to pull off the upset in Vancouver, both Langenbrunner and Rafalski know that each player must perform the role they're given -- like it 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. It should be just exciting to be there and I'm excited about our chances once we get there."
-- Jamie Langenbrunner

"Every guy must do the job they were picked to do," Langenbrunner said. "Certain players are picked for certain roles and they have to check their egos at the door because some won't play power play or be killing penalties. If we're on the same page, there's no limit to what this team can do.

"As much as Canada deserves all the credit for the players they have, the 23 players named to the U.S. Team play in the same League as those guys and we feel very comfortable playing against them on nightly basis," he continued. "We're looking forward to opportunity and the challenge."

Rafalski, who's competing in his third straight Olympic Games for the Americans, echoed Langenbrunner's remarks.

"It'll be important not taking any time or any shifts off in a game," he said. "You want to put yourself in the best situation heading into the elimination round. In a short tournament, getting everybody on the same page as quickly as possible and getting organized and communicating as much as possible so that we're as comfortable as we can be out on the ice is important. You don't want to be thinking on the ice, you just want to be reacting and going full speed so that's what the focus will be."

Suter's father, Bob, played on the gold-medal winning 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team in Lake Placid and his uncle, Gary, skated for the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team that won silver in Salt Lake City.

"We wanted some representation from the captaincy from different parts of our team," Wilson said. "We've got Jamie and Brian, who are among that veteran group, and some younger guys. We wanted to balance the leadership on paper amongst various groups in our team, and I think we've been able to do that."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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