Photo: Washington Capitals
Most modern-day fans of the Washington Capitals may know that forward T.J. Oshie attended high school in Warroad, Minnesota, which was the hometown of his father, Tim. Longtime Caps fans may recall Dave Christian from his time in D.C. in the 1980’s, and a member of the 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team, who was also from that same town, and whose father and uncle were part of the USA Gold Medal team from 1960. But there was another resident of Warroad, Minnesota, who played for the Caps before either of them and that was Alan Hangsleben.
Hangsleben was born on February 22, 1953, in Warroad, Minnesota, and graduated from Warroad High School. While in high school, he was a defenseman who played on a defense-pairing with Henry Boucha, who also later played in the NHL. In his senior year, Hangsleben was one of the team’s co-captains. After graduation, he played three seasons for the University of North Dakota (also the alma mater of Oshie), playing in 104 games and tallying 25 goals and 55 assists. He was drafted in the fourth-round (56th overall) of the 1973 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, and was also drafted by the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association (WHA) in the fourth-round (51st overall).
Hangsleben turned pro after the 1973-1974 season with North Dakota, signing a contract with the Whalers. During his first pro season, he split his time with New England and their farm team, the Cape Codders, of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), playing 26 games with the Whalers, and 55 games with the Codders. He participated in six games of the WHA playoffs, as well. During the 1975-1976 season, he remained with New England for nearly the entire season, except for one game with the Codders. He remained with the Whalers though the 1979-1980 season. Before the 1979-1980 season, the Whalers moved from New England to Hartford, Connecticut, and became part of the NHL as part of the NHL-WHA merger. He was a fan favorite during his time with the Whalers and received awards for being such a popular and unsung player. During his time with the Whalers, he transitioned from being a full-time defenseman, to a full-time forward. Midway through the 1979-1980 season, the Whalers traded him to the Washington Capitals.
With the Capitals, Hangsleben transitioned back to being a defenseman.At times his versatility would be put to use, as he would transition back and forth between forward and defenseman as injuries to his teammates would make way for the switch. He seemed happiest as a blueliner, as he considered himself a natural defenseman, delivering punishing body checks to opponents. He remained with the team until the Caps released him early in the 1981-1982 season, and later signed with the Los Angeles Kings. That season ended up being his final season in the NHL, although he played two more seasons in the minor leagues, with the Hershey Bears and New Haven Nighthawks. He retired from the NHL having played 185 games, and compiling 21 goals, 48 assists, and 69 points. He also played 334 games in the WHA. He represented the USA in three World Championships and at the 1976 Canada Cup.
Hangsleben settled in the Maryland area once his hockey career was over, considering it the most livable place to be. “It’s the only area that has four distinct seasons and none of them are really harsh”, he once said, “I would never go back [to Minnesota] to live anyway. I go back twice a year to visit, but not to live.” Hangsleben worked as a general superintendent for a high-rise roofing company in Maryland and lived in Lothian, Maryland with his wife Carmela. They now have three grown children.
He is still active in Capitals alumni events, such as Caps alumni games, the most recent one of which took place at the annual Fan Fest in July. He has also represented the Caps in charity hockey events. He was also one of the people who helped collect toys and money for the Caps’ sponsored Toys for Tots Drive during December 2015, during which they gave out T.J. Oshie posters to those fans that contributed.
By Diane Doyle