Center ice

How do you keep hockey fans from obsessing about the coming labor war? Easy. Give them a first half as excitingand surprisingas this season's

Originally Published: January 5, 2004
By Lindsay Berra and E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

New Guns In town
Jaromir Jagr. Brett Hull. Heard of them? Of course. But only hard-core puckheads know the names of the surprise guys lighting up the league. Caps center Robert Lang scored 80 points skating on the second line in Pittsburgh in 2001, but nobody noticed. All eyes were fixed on the pyrotechnics of Jaromir and Mario anchoring the first. Well, don't let this laid-back Czech's loping strides and easy grin fool you. Lang, 33, is leading his team (Jagr included) and is tied for the league lead in scoring from his first-line spot on the dead-last Caps. He's on pace for 94 points. "He's strong, really strong," says then-and-now teammate Kip Miller. "He's got a good quick shot, good hands. His speed is deceptive. If he gets a little step on you, he's so strong you can't recover."

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Lindsay Berra is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.

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