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From State to Stanley

By Jessi Pierce, Touchpoint Media, 03/09/16, 1:00PM CST

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Two-time Olympian and Stanley Cup champion Jamie Langenbrunner reflects on his State Tournament experience

He played in 1,109 NHL games over the span of a 20-year pro career. He has 243 goals, 420 assists and two Stanley Cups to his name. He even wore the ‘C’ for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver—his second time competing in the Games.

But ask Jamie Langenbrunner about his fondest hockey memories and he’s more likely to discuss an event that wasn’t on a national or international stage. In fact, he’ll probably tell you about a tournament where his team left empty-handed.

“It was my second year of Peewees, and the only year I got to play in the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament,” recalled Langenbrunner of the youth tourney that took place 28 years ago. “I remember the joy of winning Regions before heading down to Brainerd for the State Tournament. Once we got there, I remember it ended up being us against Bloomington Jefferson in the first round. We would end up having a long history with that team all the way through high school.”

Though Langenbrunner and the Lumberjacks didn’t come out on top that day—they lost to a young Jaguar squad that included future Badger Joe Bianchi and future NHLer Mark Parrish—it didn’t takeaway from his experience.

“I remember how much fun it was to reach that tournament,” he said of the first-ever Cloquet team to qualify for the State Tournament. “Getting all the way there from a small town like Cloquet, it was really special.”

The memories from that State Tournament are even more prevalent lately. After retiring from the NHL in 2014, Langenbrunner took over as head coach for the Cloquet Peewee AA team. In those two seasons, he has guided his team to the State Tournament in back-to-back years.

To make his recent tournament appearances even more special, the Langenbrunner name was on the bench as well as the ice both times with sons Landon and Mason suiting up.

“It’s just a fun tournament to go to,” said Mason, who this year is again on his dad’s Peewee AA team. “It’s well-organized and a lot of fun to play in. I get to play with my buddies and stay at the hotel and play in some great games. Last year we did pretty good so that made it even more fun to be there.”

Growing up Landon and Mason knew about the countless hockey accolades their dad had accumulated throughout his career. What they didn’t know was that his success started early on the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament stage, much like they hope theirs does.

“I think one of the big things about the State Tournament that he shared with us was really just a lot of his memories of going there with his friends,” said Landon, who is playing for Cloquet’s Bantam AA squad this year where his dad is an assistant coach. “I think it’s pretty cool that he still has those memories. He’s played on plenty of bigger stages like the Olympics and going for the Stanley Cup, but he still remembers the friends that he grew up playing with. I think that’s really cool.”

Papa Langenbrunner doesn’t only emphasize the significance of these moments and memories to his own kin, but to his entire squad.

“I keep letting them know that this Minnesota Hockey State Tournament is very special,” he said. “I let them know that I’ve won a few things and that I’ve been a part of a few big events, but I definitely remember this, and being here in this moment. And I remember it very fondly.”

Remembered even after 28 years, two Stanley Cups, two Olympics and thousands of NHL games.

“All of the achievements you might make growing up, the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament is something unlike any of it. Here you get to play with your friends that you started the game with. They’re the ones you’re with all of the time, especially in a small town like ours. It’s the guys you grow up with—your hometown boys. It’s pretty cool.”

Lowdown with Langenbrunner

Jamie Langenbrunner shares insight from his experiences as a player and coach at the State Tournament

Q: What’s changed at the State Tournament since the time you came as a player?

A: The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that everyone knows everyone now. There used to be this mystique about the other team. You didn’t play each other that often. The first time you saw each other was the State Tournament. You had no idea what to expect from the other team—we just showed up. Now everybody seems to have a pretty good idea of who the teams are already. 

Q: What’s remained the same?

A: It’s still a heck of a whole lot of fun. There’s still a lot of excitement and the experience is still something that is just so unique. You really can’t get this anywhere and it’s a great opportunity for these young boys and girls to play in something like that.

Q: What’s one must-do activity for every player/coach/parent at the State Tournament?

A: I would say everyone should go to the Welcome Banquet (if there is one). It’s just really neat. Last year it took place at this banquet hall and every coach went up and said something about his or her team and talked about how this really is a different type of tournament that they get to experience. That banquet is a part of enjoying that experience. It’s a part of the journey, so go and enjoy it.

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He played in 1,109 NHL games over the span of a 20-year pro career. He has 243 goals, 420 assists and two Stanley Cups to his name. He even wore the ‘C’ for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver—his second time competing in the Games.

But ask Jamie Langenbrunner about his fondest hockey memories and he’s more likely to discuss an event that wasn’t on a national or international stage. In fact, he’ll probably tell you about a tournament where his team left empty-handed.

“It was my second year of Peewees, and the only year I got to play in the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament,” recalled Langenbrunner of the youth tourney that took place 28 years ago. “I remember the joy of winning Regions before heading down to Brainerd for the State Tournament. Once we got there, I remember it ended up being us against Bloomington Jefferson in the first round. We would end up having a long history with that team all the way through high school.”

Though Langenbrunner and the Lumberjacks didn’t come out on top that day—they lost to a young Jaguar squad that included future Badger Joe Bianchi and future NHLer Mark Parrish—it didn’t takeaway from his experience.

“I remember how much fun it was to reach that tournament,” he said of the first-ever Cloquet team to qualify for the State Tournament. “Getting all the way there from a small town like Cloquet, it was really special.”

The memories from that State Tournament are even more prevalent lately. After retiring from the NHL in 2014, Langenbrunner took over as head coach for the Cloquet Peewee AA team. In those two seasons, he has guided his team to the State Tournament in back-to-back years.

To make his recent tournament appearances even more special, the Langenbrunner name was on the bench as well as the ice both times with sons Landon and Mason suiting up.

“It’s just a fun tournament to go to,” said Mason, who this year is again on his dad’s Peewee AA team. “It’s well-organized and a lot of fun to play in. I get to play with my buddies and stay at the hotel and play in some great games. Last year we did pretty good so that made it even more fun to be there.”

Growing up Landon and Mason knew about the countless hockey accolades their dad had accumulated throughout his career. What they didn’t know was that his success started early on the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament stage, much like they hope theirs does.

“I think one of the big things about the State Tournament that he shared with us was really just a lot of his memories of going there with his friends,” said Landon, who is playing for Cloquet’s Bantam AA squad this year where his dad is an assistant coach. “I think it’s pretty cool that he still has those memories. He’s played on plenty of bigger stages like the Olympics and going for the Stanley Cup, but he still remembers the friends that he grew up playing with. I think that’s really cool.”

Papa Langenbrunner doesn’t only emphasize the significance of these moments and memories to his own kin, but to his entire squad.

“I keep letting them know that this Minnesota Hockey State Tournament is very special,” he said. “I let them know that I’ve won a few things and that I’ve been a part of a few big events, but I definitely remember this, and being here in this moment. And I remember it very fondly.”

Remembered even after 28 years, two Stanley Cups, two Olympics and thousands of NHL games.

“All of the achievements you might make growing up, the Minnesota Hockey State Tournament is something unlike any of it. Here you get to play with your friends that you started the game with. They’re the ones you’re with all of the time, especially in a small town like ours. It’s the guys you grow up with—your hometown boys. It’s pretty cool.”

Lowdown with Langenbrunner

Jamie Langenbrunner shares insight from his experiences as a player and coach at the State Tournament

Q: What’s changed at the State Tournament since the time you came as a player?

A: The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that everyone knows everyone now. There used to be this mystique about the other team. You didn’t play each other that often. The first time you saw each other was the State Tournament. You had no idea what to expect from the other team—we just showed up. Now everybody seems to have a pretty good idea of who the teams are already. 

Q: What’s remained the same?

A: It’s still a heck of a whole lot of fun. There’s still a lot of excitement and the experience is still something that is just so unique. You really can’t get this anywhere and it’s a great opportunity for these young boys and girls to play in something like that.

Q: What’s one must-do activity for every player/coach/parent at the State Tournament?

A: I would say everyone should go to the Welcome Banquet (if there is one). It’s just really neat. Last year it took place at this banquet hall and every coach went up and said something about his or her team and talked about how this really is a different type of tournament that they get to experience. That banquet is a part of enjoying that experience. It’s a part of the journey, so go and enjoy it.

Most Popular