The University of Minnesota hockey team was having its senior day ceremony at Mariucci Arena a couple of weeks ago. Bob Shier, a part-time assistant, was standing near the ice, taking in the emotional scene.
"Bob gets so wrapped up in Gopher hockey . . . he was weeping," Bonnie Hankinson said. "I asked him, `What's wrong, Bob?' He said, `I'm not sure if I'm crying because Peter is leaving, or because Ben is staying.' "
The Hankinsons, gathered at the dining-room table - Bonnie, her husband, John, and 13-year-old son Casey - laughed at the repeating of Shier's punchline. "Poor Ben," Bonnie said.
Peter and Ben Hankinson both play right wing for the Gophers. After that, we get into the contrasts:
Peter, a senior, is 5-9, 175 pounds, and was considered an outstanding prospect throughout his four winters at Edina High. Peter leads the Gophers in scoring with 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points. In 39 games, he has taken four penalties for eight minutes.
Ben, a junior, is 6-2, 205 pounds. He broke into Edina's lineup as a junior. Gophers coach Doug Woog was questioned for offering Ben a scholarship. The critics figured Woog did it because Ben was Peter's brother. Ben has been on a scoring splurge lately, lifting his season totals to 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points - 11th on the team. Ben leads the Gophers with 36 penalties for 72 minutes.
"Peter is a very calculating player. He's a sniper; he's in control at all times," Woog said. "Ben is harder to describe. Every time I send him out for a shift, I say, `No penalties, Ben.' He tries to listen, but Ben's so keyed up, he thinks he's taking a three-foot run at a guy and it's actually 20 feet.
"We do need Ben's toughness. We need his personality. You need a loose cannon in the locker room, and that's Ben. Plus, he's a good hockey player."
Bonnie calls her oldest sons the Republican and the Democrat. "We took them to the State Fair years ago," Bonnie said. "John gave each of them a $20 bill. Two hours later, Peter came back with the $20 still in his pocket. Ben and his friend came back flat broke, carrying a half-dozen of the largest stuffed animals you've ever seen."
Bill Butters, an assistant coach with the Gophers, said that story surprised him. "I would have guessed that Peter came back with $40," he said.
John Hankinson said: "Peter is just learning to talk back to us now. Ben had that down when he was 6."
Peter's efficient approach to competition was inherited from his father. John was a standout in football, basketball and baseball at Edina. He was the Gophers' starting quarterback in 1964 and 1965, and he left school with most of the passing records.
"It didn't take big numbers to set the passing records," Hankinson said. "Sandy Stephens had most of them, and Sandy was lucky if Murray (Warmath) let him pass a dozen times a game. I was controlled as a player. I never let myself get too excited."
Bonnie said: "He's still that way. John just sits there and watches the game. He never says a word."
If Peter has inherited his father's personality, Ben has his mother's. A few weeks back, Bonnie was introduced to a sportswriter and occasional hockey critic. She grabbed the front of the guy's shirt and, feigning anger, said: "You better start writing nice things about hockey."
John and Bonnie met in 1961, when he was a ballboy at Vikings games and Bonnie, a University of Minnesota freshman from Willmar, was a cheerleader. "I was also a cheerleader at the U of M - all sports, including hockey," Bonnie said. "We didn't know a lot about hockey in Willmar. The first time my parents came to watch me at a Gophers hockey game, they left after two periods. They thought it was over."
Now, Bonnie's mother, Arlene Nyberg, is one of the major obstacles Woog must overcome in convincing Ben to take fewer penalties. Bonnie said: "When Grandma Arlene sees Ben after a game, she says, `Good for you, Ben. You should've hit 'em harder.' "
The Hankinsons live in a splendid, 1940s home in the Interlachen area of Edina. Things were not always this sumptuous. After college, John spent three years hanging around NFL taxi squads (the Vikings, Philadelphia) and the Canadian League (Edmonton, Calgary).
"I thought I had a chance to play my second year with the Vikings in 1967," John said. "I remember heading back from an exhibition where I had played pretty well, and this big fellow walked on the plane. I thought, `Good, we found a tight end.' The next day, I opened the Minneapolis Tribune and there was the headline: `Joe Kapp signs; Hankinson cut.' "
Since the early '70s, John has been involved in real-estate development. He also has been involved in the development of athletes.There is a hockey rink - 40 feet by 60 feet, surrounded by full-sized sideboards - in the back yard. There is also a mini-baseball field, with a batting cage.
"We moved here from St. Louis Park in 1979," John said. "The main requirement was a back yard with no trees. I would march through the house to the back yard and, if there were trees, we'd say, `Not this one.' We needed room for a rink. I do the flooding and take care of it."
Ben said: "Our Christmas present to my dad always has been a pair of rubber gloves to wear when he's flooding the rink. You could hear him out there working on it at 3 in the morning. All we had to do to play hockey was lace up our skates."
The rink claimed a casualty on New Year's Day. Casey was out there, skating through pylons. Bonnie decided it was time to get some instructions from Casey in perfecting her slapshot. One of Casey's shots hit a bump on the ice, went straight up and caught Bonnie in the lower lip.
"Twenty-four stitches," she said. "There was lipstick on the puck and black rubber on my teeth. They gave me codeine for the pain, and I broke out in hives. It's been a great winter."
Actually, it has been . . . the last winter John and Bonnie will get to see the Republican and the Democrat play together at Mariucci. Today, the Gophers move to the St. Paul Civic Center for the WCHA tournament, and even John, the stoic of the stands, feels himself getting emotional.
"For me, watching the games has always been fun," John said. "Now it's getting tougher to watch. Peter's time with the Gophers is winding down, and Ben will be following in another year. I'm getting a little crabbier before games."
No problem. Bonnie has discovered a sure-fire cure for crabbiness: "The Naked Gun."
"Did you see that movie? I saw it three times," she said. "Ben, Casey and I went to it. We just howled."