The person who might have the toughest time in the Slaggert household for this Sunday’s contest between the University of Notre Dame and the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 squad at USA Hockey Arena might be mom, Tara.
After all, she will have to divide her loyalties between her middle son, Landon, NTDP forward, her husband, Andy, Notre Dame associate head coach, and her oldest son, Graham, Fighting Irish sophomore forward and NTDP alum (2015-17).
Photo: Rena Laverty
“I don’t know who she is going to cheer for,” said Landon. “My dad and brother are with Notre Dame, but I might be the one she cheers for. My brother always says that I’m the favorite since I’m the middle child. I have a feeling that she will stay neutral when she is sitting with our family.”
More than anything, this contest will give one of the brothers bragging rights at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
“It is all about bragging rights,” said Slaggert. “Who knows who will be bragging until after the game?
“We have never played in a real game against each other. We have always been really competitive whether it was playing mini-sticks or NHL on the Xbox. I think it will be pretty cool to complete on the ice against each other.”
To understand just how special this moment is for Landon, playing for Notre Dame has been a dream of his since he was a little kid growing up under the Golden Dome in South Bend, Indiana, and he will be a member of the Fighting Irish once his NTDP playing days are over.
“It’s something special,” said Slaggert. “I have looked up to the guys since I was little. It is going to be cool to play against them. It will be surreal to see the gold helmets.
“To me, it’s home. It just feels right. To play for my dad and alongside my brother is something that not everyone can do. It will be a remarkable experience and I will get a good education.”
Slaggert’s dad, Andy, has had a considerable impact on his life. Andy Slaggert was a right winger for the Irish in the late 1980s and has been a coach since 1992.
“He has been one of my main motivators, both on and off the ice,” said Landon on his dad. “He always tells me to go for my dreams, be a good person and do well in school. It just makes it more special that I will be able to be on his team next year.”
Of course, mom Tara also played a huge role in his development. After all, she was the one that drove him to hockey practice and games, especially when Andy was busy coaching.
“My mom was just amazing,” said Slaggert. “She was always the one to pick me up after a bad game or congratulate me on a good game. She is the one that drives our family in support of us. I’m sure she will have tears of joy on Sunday. It will be even more special for her when I join my dad and brother at Notre Dame.”
Before making that next move, Slaggert is focused on his final season with the red, white and blue. The 6-foot, 182-pound forward is already seeing the difference between his first and second year with the program.
“You really notice the difference this year,” he said. “You are stronger and the game as a whole is slowing down. The added strength allows you to body guys more, especially in the corners. That is really going to pay dividends this year. In the [Under-]17 year, you are more timid and now, you have the upper hand.
Photo: Rena Laverty
“I learned a lot last year. We had adversity as we played against older guys. This year, when we play those teams, it will be more fun and allow us to see where we have grown.”
In addition, Slaggert credits the video sessions with the coaches in helping with his development.
“It really makes you grow as a player,” he said. “You can use those sessions to help develop your game on the ice. It gives you a chance to see what you are doing. Plus, we get to watch videos of guys that we want to model our game after which makes it fun.”
According to Slaggert, with adding the college games this season along with the United States Hockey League contests and international play, there is a simple formula for success.
“We need to come together as a group,” he said. “Last year, we really did get our feet wet. This year, we need to build on that and hopefully, we can roll with that and gain momentum. We need to develop good habits. Our hard work, both on and off the ice, will be important.”
At the end of the day, no matter the outcome of the Notre Dame game, one thing will never change for Slaggert and that is how much it has meant to wear the USA jersey.
“It is unbelievable to wear the crest,” he said. “The three letters U-S-A mean so much more. It is something that I will never forget.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.