DALLAS -- A season-ending injury at 37 years old can often wind up turning into a career-ending injury, but St. Louis Blues’ right winger Jamie Langenbrunner is determined that his current hip injury will not force him out of the NHL.
After playing just four games this year, recording one assist, the native of Cloquet, Minn. succumbed to a labrum tear that appeared gradually and underwent surgery about two weeks ago.
“We couldn’t pinpoint any one certain thing and it just got to the point where it got too irritated and [I] just didn’t have the ability to push off any more, so I had to get it done,” Langenbrunner said of the surgical procedure. “It’s coming along well. I’m close to getting off the crutches, then I’ll begin the rehab, and hopefully it’ll heal quicker.”
And while his projected recovery time extends beyond the end of the 2012-13 season, his 18th in the NHL, the two-time U.S. Olympian vows that this won’t be the last we see of him.
“Not if I have anything to say about it, but you never know what happens,” said Langenbrunner, whose one-year contract expires after this season. “Obviously, it’s not perfect timing for me, but I try to get myself to get through this, feel good and hopefully get back to training and hopefully be ready to go again.”
And although he is in the twilight of a fantastic career, Langenbrunner can still play, as evidenced by his contribution of six goals, including three game-winners, and 24 points in 70 games last season. He also provided valuable leadership and mentoring to the Blues’ younger forwards, helping the squad finish with the Western Conference’s second-best record last year.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner (1999 in Dallas, 2003 in New Jersey) served as the Devils’ captain for three-and-a-half seasons (2007-11), and in the same capacity for the silver medal-winning Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Langenbrunner, who was drafted by Dallas in the second round (35th overall) in 1993, spent eight years with the Stars during the franchise’s glory years of 1995-2002, returning on Jan. 7, 2011, in a trade with New Jersey. After five goals and 18 points in 39 games during his second stint with the Stars, Langenbrunner signed with the Blues in 2011-12.
His latest honor was being named to the Stars’ all-time team. He received a standing ovation from the Dallas crowd when he was recognized during the Blues’ 4-1 loss to the Stars on Sunday.
“It was a neat honor for me,” said Langenbrunner, whose 95 goals rank eighth in Dallas history. “Having played with pretty much everyone on that [all-time] team, some pretty special guys, to be in that group was definitely an honor for me. [The ovation] was really nice. You never know what to expect sometimes, but the fans are fantastic and obviously, I loved my time playing [in Dallas].”
He reminisced about the unique connection that still bonds the players on that 1999 Stanley Cup winning team and the one that returned to the Final in 2000 before falling to the Devils.
“You look back at the depth that we had and definitely the closeness that we had,” recalled Langenbrunner, who scored 10 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games en route to the 1999 Cup. “We had a lot of fun, both on and off the ice, and definitely friends that you keep for life. It’s nice to have those friendships and think how that closeness we had is probably part of the reason we were such a great team.”
He also looks back very fondly on his various stints with the U.S. national teams over the years, starting with the 1994 and ’95 World Junior Championships. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Langenbrunner also pulled on the USA jersey at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and of course, the 2010 Olympics.
“I’m obviously proud to be part of that and have the opportunity to play with some of those guys from that ground-breaking group [in ’98] with [Mike Modano] and [Chris Chelios] and Brian Leetch and those guys,” said Langenbrunner, who has amassed 243 goals and 663 points over 1,109 career games. “And then to be part of that new group in 2010 with Patrick Kane and [Zach] Parise and those guys, it was fun seeing both sides of it.”
Langenbrunner considers his time as Team USA captain in 2010 as one of the highlights of his career.
“It was fantastic. Just to be named on that team was an honor, and then a week later, getting the call from Ron Wilson and Brian Burke to be the captain, I was definitely taken aback by that,” admitted Langenbrunner, who contributed one goal and four points in six Olympic Games in 2010. “Any time you get a chance to represent your country is an honor, but being named the captain — and then to have some success, we kind of surprised some teams I think, and really came together. It was definitely an enjoyable two weeks of hockey for me.”
Having experienced first-hand the evolution of elite-level American hockey from surprise winner to perennial powerhouse, Langenbrunner believes the U.S. is poised to remain an international force moving forward.
“It’s fun seeing how USA Hockey has grown,” Langenbrunner said. “The U.S. World Juniors winning the championship [this past January] and being a force every year, it’s great to see. A lot of credit goes to the Dallas Stars, with what they were able to do with growing hockey here and the same could be said in California. I think I saw where 13 states were represented on that World Junior team — that’s pretty great for hockey and it’s great to see the game growing.”
It would also be great to see Langenbrunner return for at least one more season in 2013-14.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.