If the UND men's hockey team reaches the NCAA Frozen Four for the fifth straight season, it will have a pretty good tour guide of the Washington, D.C. area.
Not only has former All-American defenseman Alan Hangsleben spent the last 27 years in the region. He knows a thing or two about the Verizon Center, site of the 2009 college hockey championships.
Hangsleben has season tickets to Washington Capitals games at the arena, he plays as a member of the Caps alumni team and he even helped put the roof on the building.
"I know the ins and the outs," Hangsleben said from his home near Annapolis, Md.
Hangsleben, who played at UND from 1971-74 and spent 10 years in the pros, now works for Gordon Contractors, a high-rise roofing company, in the D.C. area.
He started in the business while he was still an NHL player with the Washington Capitals.
Hangsleben said he browsed the newspaper looking for a summer job. The first advertisement he saw was the contracting one. So, he began working and has never fully left.
"I've been with the same company, starting as a laborer," said Hangsleben, who is now a superintendent of the 260-employee company. "I worked for them in the summertime and then went and played hockey in the fall . . . that was 27 years ago.
"It's great exercise. When we're in the buildings, there are no elevators. So it's a lot of going up and down."
The Warroad, Minn., native lives on a five-acre property in Maryland and enjoys the location for several reasons.
"I've been to a lot of other places, but I like it here," he said. "It's so close to everything. I'm right by Annapolis, 35 minutes from Baltimore and 35 minutes from D.C.
"And the weather is good, too. You get four seasons without the extremes. In Florida, it's so hot in the summer. In Warroad, it's so cold in the winter that they call it God's country. He's the only one who can stand it."
Hangsleben said there are a few highlights that stand out from his hockey career.
One was getting drafted. The Montreal Canadiens selected him No. 56 overall in 1973 -- the exact pick the Canadiens selected Sioux recruit Danny Kristo with this spring.
"That was a boyhood dream of mine," Hangsleben said.
Another was skating with Gordie Howe on the night Joe Louis Arena opened in Detroit.
"To be there on opening night with one of the premier stars of the league was great," he said.
That wasn't the only time he skated among legends.
He once played in a Canada Cup game where he lined up against an intimidating power-play unit for the Canadians: Bobby Hull at left wing, Phil Esposito at center, Guy Lafleur at right wing, Bobby Orr at left defense and Denis Potvin at right defense.
"Those were all my childhood heroes that I grew up watching and wanting to be like someday," Hangsleben said. "It was great.
"I did it, loved it, then had to get a real job."
After Hangsleben left hockey, he still had one more thrill. He was inducted into UND's Athletic Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
"That was really nice," he said.
Waiting for April
Hangsleben said he's still following college hockey in Maryland, primarily through ESPNU, which televises games throughout the season.
He estimates that he caught five Sioux games on television last year.
With his complimentary season tickets from the Caps, he also enjoys watching the NHL league MVP Alexander Ovechkin.
"He's a legitimate player," Hangsleben said. "He does everything, he plays the game the way it's supposed to be played.
"He's an unbelievable player and an even better guy."
While he will continue attending NHL and Caps games come fall, Hangsleben said he's already looking forward to spring.
"I've already talked with the Caps organization about getting tickets to the Frozen Four," he said. "It's going to be great. I definitely hope the Sioux are there."
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.