Landon Slaggert wins gold medal at World Junior hockey championship
Nate Moller | Monday, January 18, 2021
Irish freshman forward Landon Slaggert started his new year in a big way, taking home the gold medal with Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships on Jan. 5. The Americans defeated Team Canada 2-0 to win the gold medal.
Going into the championship game against Canada, Slaggert was aware of the Canadians’ prowess, but he had confidence in his team to get the job done.
“We knew it would be a tough match. This Canada team is possibly one of the best teams that they have suited up at the world juniors with all their first-rounders and their talent,” Slaggert said. “We knew it would be a challenge, but we had confidence in our game and believed that we had what it took to win the gold medal.”
Slaggert talked about how he felt after the win.
“It didn’t really set in right away. There was a big sigh of relief that we did it and got it, but then the celebration started,” Slaggert stated. “It was a great experience and a testament to what we had to go through with the testing and quarantining before the tournament. Finally getting to come out of that adversity with a gold medal was pretty special.”
Slaggert also discussed the strict quarantining and testing protocols that the team faced after arriving in Edmonton for the tournament.
“Right away we were sent to our rooms and couldn’t leave for four days,” Slaggert said. “We just had meals given to us at our door, got tested right there at the door and hopped on a lot of Zoom calls to keep us busy.”
Playing for Team USA had always been a dream for Slaggert, making his gold medal experience that much more special.
“It started when I was young playing mini sticks in the Slaggert household,” he said. “We threw on the USA jerseys, and I always remember around Christmas time the most exciting thing was watching the world juniors. It’s always been a dream of mine. As the years went on, I kind of realized that it would be possible for me to play on the team. I was fortunate enough to make the team this year, and it was a pretty special experience to live out that dream.”
Slaggert discussed what it meant to sing the national anthem with his team after winning the gold medal.
“I don’t even know if I can put it into words,” Slaggert said. “Just being there with your brothers and signing the nation’s song, there aren’t really words to describe that feeling.”
Slaggert grew up in a hockey family with his father, Andy, who has been a part of the Notre Dame hockey program for the last 28 years. His father has been an associate coach since 2017.
Slaggert described the unique situation of having his father as a coach during his youth hockey days.
“It was definitely a unique situation to have a dad as a coach at the time,” Slaggert said. “I remember he came to watch me play when I was 16. I had a pretty good game, and we got in the car afterward and I was waiting for him to say something. There was nothing out of him for a while, so I asked, ‘How did I play?’ And he responded with ‘How do you think you played?’ It is kind of a unique situation, but I like how he handled it.”
Slaggert’s older brother, Graham, is a junior on Irish hockey team, and it has been a unique experience for them to play with each other this season.
“We’ve grown up playing hockey together, and we definitely have some chemistry together,” Slaggert explained. “It’s a unique experience. I’ve always just played with him in practice and stuff but never in a game, and now we are finally out there on the same team. It is definitely a special dynamic. I think his vision and playmaking abilities complement my tenacity and grit. I think we definitely play well together, and I see us having success here in these next few games.”
With his father as a coach, Slaggert has been skating at Notre Dame for years.
“I can’t even remember the first time I put on skates. That was a long time before I could even remember,” Slaggert said. “My parents had us on skates and skating around at the old Joyce Center rink. We would take advantage of having all that free ice and just going out on open skates and skating after practice. I would look up to the Notre Dame guys too. They would stay around and play with us.”
Slaggert has looked up to many players as a kid, but he named Anders Lee as someone he specifically looked up to.
“On the ice, his game speaks for itself, but his leadership and who he is as a person is something that I really admire,” Slaggert said. “Now he is the captain of the Islanders, and I don’t think it’s by accident with his leadership and how he carries himself.”
It’s been a special year for Slaggert, starting his career at Notre Dame, taking home a gold medal with Team USA and getting drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks 79th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. Slaggert discussed what these accomplishments have meant to him and his family in the midst of a really tough year with the pandemic.
“It’s definitely been a very emotional year,” Slaggert said. “It’s crazy just with everything going on in the world, but lots of good things have happened just with my hockey career so far. It was special obviously to play my first game in a Notre Dame sweater, and then obviously to get drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks was a special moment for me and my family. And then getting to play in the world juniors. Those three things definitely brought some enjoyment in life during the tough year of 2020.”
Slaggert made a big impact in his first game back with the Irish this past Saturday, scoring two goals Notre Dame’s 5-4 win over Arizona State.
“It gave me some confidence playing with a lot of other great hockey players from across the nation and learning some things from them,” Slaggert said. “And then practicing at the high pace, I kind of brought that back to Notre Dame, and it allowed me to step back in my role and play with some confidence and contribute right away. It felt good to feel that and contribute and get the guys going. That was definitely a confidence boost for me.”
Slaggert will play a large role in turning around an Irish season that underwent a mediocre start but was improved greatly by a road sweep of top-ranked Minnesota this weekend.