Warroad Road Warriors and the Washington Capitals

Warroad is a small town in northern Minnesota with a population of approximately 1700 people, and is located on the Lake of the Woods, about 6 miles from the Canadian border. 

Warroad was once one of the largest Chippewa villages on the lake.  The Chippewa fought a long and fierce war against the Sioux for the lake’s rice fields.  The Sioux would frequently invade the territory by way of the Red and Roseau Rivers, which ended at the mouth of the Warroad River.  That was the old “war road”, from which both the river and the village derived their name.

However, during the 20th and 21st centuries, the village became better known for the hockey players that Hailed from the tiny hamlet.  At least three players from that small town played with the Washington Capitals.

All three of those players had graduated from Warroad High school and played for the team there, the Warriors.  All three of them played college hockey for North Dakota.  They all played professional hockey after college, starting off with different teams, but eventually became members of the Washington Capitals.

ALAN HANGSLEBEN

The first resident of Warroad who played for the Capitals was Alan Hangsleben, who had played for the Capitals from 1979-80 through 1981-82.  The Caps acquired him from the Hartford Whalers during the 1979-80 season, where he had played both forward and defenseman, ultimately transitioning to defenseman full-time while with the Caps.

Hangsleben had attended Warroad High School, graduating in 1971.  While in high school, he played adefense in hockey, middle linebacker in football and both pitcher and catcher in baseball.  He played on a defense pairing with Henry Boucha, who was two years his senior and also made it to the NHL.  Boucha and Hangsleben played nearly every minute together of every game for Warroad.

Hangsleben was one of the stars when the Warroad Warriors faced Edina in a state tournament.  Warroad trailed 4-2 and Boucha had already left the game due to injury.  However, Warroad came back to tie the game with two goals by Frank Krahn, with the second goal coming on an assist by Hangsleben.  The game headed to overtime, and Warroad eventually lost but it was considered a great game, nonetheless.  Hangsleben had made enough of an impression to be named to the All-Tournament team as he scored 3 points.  He was named to the All-Tournament team for his junior year, as well, when he scored 4 points.

After high school graduation, he attended University of North Dakota where he played three seasons for the Fighting Sioux, scoring 92 points (37 goals, 55 assists).

After that, he was drafted by both the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL and the Hartford Whalers of the WHA, but chose the latter.  He transitioned from being a full-time defenseman to a full-time forward during his time in Hartford.  He remained with the Whalers as they joined the NHL when the WHA folded before the 1979-80 season, but was traded to the Caps near the end of that season.

After retiring from the NHL, he went to work for a roofing company and eventually became the general superintendent.  He lives in Lothian, Maryland and has season tickets to the Caps.  He is involved in alumni events for the Caps.

Further Reading on Hangsleben 

Nova Caps Profile on Hangsleben
Out of the Shadows Article from Minnesota Hockey Hub
Profile on Hangsleben from Greatest Hockey Legends
Article from Grand Forks Herald

DAVE CHRISTIAN

The second Warroad resident to play for the Capitals was Dave Christian, who played for the Caps from 1983-84 through 1989-90.  He is best known for being part of the U.S. Olympic team that upset the Russians during the “Miracle on Ice” game in the 1980 Olympics.

Christian graduated from Warroad High in 1977.  Besides hockey, he competed in track and field and played football and baseball.

After high school graduation, he also attended the University of North Dakota to play for the Fighting Sioux.  During the 1978-79 season, the Fighting Sioux played for the national championship only to lose to the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Finals.  Future Olympic teammate, Neal Broten played for the Golden Gophers.  He was chosen for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 who beat the Soviet Union team in the semi-finals and went on to win the Gold Medal game.

After turning professional, he played for the Winnipeg Jets for 15 games and three full seasons after that before signing with the Washington Capitals as a free agent prior to the 1983-84 season.

His most productive seasons were with the Caps, with whom he had one season where he scored 41 goals and another where he scored 37 goals.  He was with the Caps for nearly seven seasons until traded to the Boston Bruins in a trade deadline deal.

Christian’s father, Bill, and his uncle, Roger, both played with the U.S. Olympic team that won the Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley and had beaten the Soviet Union that year, too.

So, it was a case of “like father like son”.  Another uncle, Gordon Christian, was part of the U.S. Olympic hockey team that won the Silver Medal in 1956.  His father, his uncle Roger, and Henry Bakke had co-founded the Christian Brothers Hockey Company which made hockey sticks until 2009.  Incidentally, Dave Christian now has a nephew playing in the NHL, Brock Nelson.

Christian was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

In February 2015, at the time of the Miracle on Ice 35th Anniversary Reunion, he was employed as a Technical Services Engineer with Cardinal Glass Industries in Fargo, North Dakota

Further Reading on Dave Christian
NoVa Caps Profile of Dave Christian
Minnesota Hockey Hub: Catching Up with Dave Christian

T.J. OSHIE

The third Warroad resident to play for the Washington Capitals was Timothy Leif “T.J.” Oshie.  Unlike Hangsleben and Christian, he was not born there but, instead, was born in Everett, Washington.

Oshie had ancestral connections to Warroad, though, as his father’s family was from there but had relocated to Everett, Washington during the 1960’s, after his grandfather’s house had burned down.

While Oshie had grown up in Everett, his family did go back to Warroad to visit.  His father’s cousin, Henry Boucha, kept trying to talk his father into moving back to Warroad, especially when it was evident that T.J. was interested in hockey.  He talked about all the benefits of being in Warroad, where there was free ice time and T.J. could skate as often as he would like.  Tim Oshie was on the fence about returning to Warroad, but when he and his wife, Tina, divorced, Tim Oshie and T.J. moved to Warroad, in time for T.J.’s sophomore year of high school.

The move to Warroad proved fruitful for T.J.’s development as a hockey player.  When one of the first liners on his high school team got injured, the coach tried T.J. on the first line to take his place, rather than breaking up either the second or third line.  Oshie stayed there for the next three years and helped the Warriors win state titles in 2003 and 2005.   While at Warroad High, Oshie scored 241 points to rank 15th on the state’s all-time scoring list.  This included him scoring a mind-boggling 99 points in 31 games during his senior year.

After graduating from high school, Oshie also attended the University of North Dakota to play for Dave Hakstol.  As it turns out, his coach from Warroad High, Cary Eades, was hired as an assistant there, which helped in the recruitment of Oshie for the team.  Oshie stayed with the Fighting Sioux for three years and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker trophy awarded to the best college hockey player before joining the St Louis Blues for the 2008-2009 season.

Oshie played with the Blues through the 2014-15 season when he was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Troy Brouwer and Phoenix Copley.

He has proven to be a great acquisition for the Washington Capitals.  The Capitals’ Stanley Cup win of 2017-18 turned out to be the first time where a player from Warroad, Minnesota had ever been part of a Stanley Cup winning team.  There had been many Olympic medalists, including members of the Christian family, and Henry Boucha, but never a Stanley Cup winner.

Oshie brought the Cup to Minnesota as part of his day with the Cup.  2018 was the first year where both an Olympic Gold medalist and a Stanley Cup winner representing Warroad.  The Olympic medalist was Gigi Marvin who had helped the USA Women win Gold after so many frustrating Olympiads where they kept finishing second to Team Canada.

Further Reading on T.J. Oshie
Caps Get TJ Oshie — NoVa Caps Report
NoVa Caps Looks at Oshie Trade 3 Years Later
Oshie’s Day With Stanley Cup
Caps Re-Sign T.J. Oshie — NoVa Caps Report
Minnesota Star Tribune Article on Oshie Remains Attached to Warroad
USA Hockey Magazine Article During 2014 Olympics
Hockey News Article Talking About Him as Glue Guy and His Family
Grand Forks Article Talking About Oshie and Gigi Marvin

Conclusion

In all, there were three residents of Warroad, Minnesota who have played for the Washington Capitals.  They all had played high school hockey on the Warroad Warriors team and went on to play college hockey for the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota.  Even as North Dakota is now known as the Fighting Hawks rather than the Fighting Sioux, the school still remembers them.  None of them started their careers with the Caps but joined them later.  It was a interesting coincidence that Alan Hangsleben’s high school defense partner was the cousin of T.J. Oshie’s father and had talked the Oshies into returning to Warroad.  It has been an interesting career road for three road warriors over the course of many years who followed similar paths.

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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4 Responses to Warroad Road Warriors and the Washington Capitals

  1. Richard Sanderson says:

    Great article, Diane – thanks. I was born in Warroad n 1930 and knew those families.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Capitals Day 4 Training Camp Roundup: The Tiger Returns and Sergei Shumakov Participates | NoVa Caps

  3. Dave McConachy says:

    I’m a Canadian who played senior hockey in Warroad for the Lakers in the early 1970’s. Our Warroad Laker team won the Canadian intermediate championship in 1974 with a team of half Canadians from Winnipeg and half American players from the Warroad area.Future Lakers teams won the senior hockey championship, the storied Allan Cup, three years in a row in the early ’90’s with a roster made entirely of American players. No team had ever won 3 in a row previously. Warroad has an incredible hockey history which includes players and teams from high school, Olympic champions, amateur teams, to NHL players. My Canadian friends and I who played in Warroad consider ourselves extremely lucky to have met and be a part of Warroad hockey. It really is an amazing story that only hockey insiders know about.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Washington Capitals Training Camp – Day 4 Roundup: Eller and Carlson Return and Sergei Shumakov Participates | NoVa Caps

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