Mmmbop or Slap Shot?

_D8B9873WHEELING, W. Va. – Nailers defenseman Zach Hansen was pretty much assured of the fact he would play hockey solely by virtue of his birthplace – Minnesota.

“They say you’re born with skates on.” Hansen said. “Hockey is part of the lifestyle and all the communities.”

Minnesota’s generally long and brutal winters account for the citizens’ proficiency in navigating the ice covered streets and skating the frozen bodies of water that are part of the state’s natural beauty.

“For the most part you start young. You learn to skate on the ponds or the lakes outdoors. Even the kids that don’t end up making hockey or end up growing up playing it, everyone skates.”

Hansen played the 2006-2007 season in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede emerging as the Tier 1 USHL Junior Hockey Playoff Champions winning the Clark Cup. Although the season ended with a championship, the beginning wasn’t as auspicious. In fact, the team lost its first eight games.

“It was really a different mindset,” Hansen remembers. “I think the real turning point was after Thanksgiving break.

“We came back and were able to bond as a group. As soon as we started clicking and winning games, we went on a tear and guys felt it. There was a lot of selfless hockey and it resulted in a championship.

“We had a great group of guys. A lot of those guys are playing in the NHL today, almost three quarters of the team are playing pro somewhere.”Zach Hansen

The last moments before winning the championship are burned in his memory.

“It went fast and then it went slow,” Hansen recalls. “It was an emotional moment for all of us. I think we were in Waterloo and the place was packed. It was nuts.

“Everything was on the line, the championship was on the line. To win a national championship of Tier 1 of the Junior Program of the United States, it was a pretty big deal.  It was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Hansen’s winning hockey means provided an educational opportunity through a scholarship to Quinnipiac University where he majored in Business Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Guided to his major by professors and refined into a goal, Hansen made the most of his college experience.

“Someday I’d like to own something of my own because hockey is not going to last forever.” Hansen said. “You need to fall back and have an education which was a huge part of my game plan of going into college – which obviously made my parents very happy as well.”

For now, Hansen is enjoying his hockey career and although his last name is spelled Hansen with an “e”, there are always the inevitable comparisons to the “other” Hansons. Logic dictates that the Hanson brothers of “Slap Shot” hockey movie fame would be the ones he would be grouped with.

Zach HansenBut Hansen has found more ribbing associated with the Hanson brothers of teen-boppy “Mmmbop” acclaim. After all, one of the members is named Zac.

“I get a lot of the Mmmbop from the fans.” Hansen said. “They like to give me jabs here and there and some of the guys in the locker room too. It’s all in good fun and it keeps the mood light.”

Contact Monique.Griffin@prohockeynews.com

Contact photographer Garry.Shorter@prohockeynews.com

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