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Hockey player races stork for gold

The phone jingled in Jamie Langenbrunner's room at the athletes' village, piercing the late night stillness like a fire alarm.

"I jumped," he said. "Your heart races thinking who it might be."Langenbrunner, a 22-year-old forward on the U.S. men's hockey team, is jumpy awaiting the call that will change his life.

Thousands of miles away in Irving, Texas, Elizabeth Langenbrunner is pregnant with the couple's first child. She could deliver any day, although Langenbrunner hopes the baby will wait until after the Olympics end Sunday.

"It's getting really close. They're going to hold off until next week, if possible," said Langenbrunner, whose team faced the Czech Republic in Wednesday's quarter-finals.

Langenbrunner never imagined being half a world away when his child arrives. He expected to spend the 17-day NHL break on the golf course.

Instead, he was added to the American team Friday as a replacement for injured Shawn McEachern. He had nine hours' notice to pack for Japan, with his wife urging him to go.

"We decided together it was something we can't pass up," said Langenbrunner, in his second full season with the Dallas Stars. He was the team's rookie of the year last season.

Teammate John LeClair is on edge along with Langenbrunner. LeClair's wife is pregnant, too, so both men instinctively grab for the phone in their shared Olympic apartment.

The Langenbrunners, who were high school sweethearts in Duluth, Minn., talk daily. Elizabeth provides updates on her health ("She's finally starting to feel good") and the baby's movements.

The couple attended Lamaze classes with the wives of Dallas teammates Darryl Sydor and Grant Marshall. They, along with Elizabeth's mother, are her support system while Jamie is away.

"She's taken care of over there. I don't have to worry about her," Langenbrunner said. "She's been really positive and she's all excited about how things are going."

It's just the opposite for the American hockey team. The Americans needed a victory Wednesday, or Langenbrunner would be going home earlier than planned.

Langenbrunner was traveling and missed the United States' first game, a 4-2 loss to defending Olympic champion Sweden. He arrived Friday night and took the ice 131/2 hours later, getting six shots on goal in a 5-2 win over Belarus.

"It got me going and I feel great," he said. "I want a healthy kid, but my focus is here."

Langenbrunner entered the NHL Olympic break as the fourth-leading scorer on the Stars with 17 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

"His game has really evolved over the past two years. His skating just seems to get better and better," said Mike Modano, a teammate of Langenbrunner in Nagano and Dallas.

"Earlier in the season, he was kind of in the background. Now he is on the stage where he can really play some good hockey and show the world what he can do."

Langenbrunner would love to dangle a shiny gold medal over his new baby's crib to go with the stuffed Snowlets mascots he'll bring back.

And some day, he and Elizabeth will tell either Mason (for a boy) or Laine (for a girl) how Daddy answered the last-minute call to play for his country.

"I think the kid will understand," he said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It'll be a good story."