Like anyone else whose life was touched by Doug Woog, former Gophers hockey player Casey Hankinson has a million stories to tell.
"I've got so many that I started writing them down, and then there was another one, and another one and another one," Hankinson said Monday morning. "Some you could share and some you could not."
Hankinson offered up some mostly shareable ones Monday, a fitting tribute to "Wooger" — and a way to ease the sadness over the news Saturday that the former coach had died at age 75 after dealing for years with various health problems, including Parkinson's disease.
Hankinson's memories go back far into childhood, when his older brothers Peter and Ben skated for Woog's Gophers on the 1989 Frozen Four team at the St. Paul Civic Center. At a practice before the semifinal game, 10-year-old Casey found his way onto the ice as well.
"He invited me to skate with the team," Hankinson said. "I wore a pair of Paul Broten's old skates that were five sizes too big. He was just so warm and welcoming."
From the jump, Hankinson wanted to play for Woog and the Gophers. The summer before his senior year at Edina High, that dream seemed to evaporate.
"I still remember Doug calling the house in August and telling me that he didn't think I would fit in and be a Gopher," Hankinson said. "I came into the house just crushed."
But an even lower point in February of his senior season turned out to be a turning point.
"Our section semifinal game my senior year against Wayzata, we lost. I remembered so badly wanting to win the game. I was in the locker room, tears in my eyes, and when I came out [Woog] was sitting there on a bench," Hankinson recalled. "I wasn't even looking until he got my attention. And he said, 'Casey, anybody that plays as hard as you played, I need to have on my team.' "
Thus began a four-year career for the Gophers in which Hankinson amassed 106 points.
In practice one day in the 1996-97 season, Hankinson persuaded backup goalie Willy Marvin to switch gear with him — letting Hankinson put on the pads while Marvin skated out in Hankinson's jersey.
"Guys are warming me up with shots, and Woog is on poor Willy because he thinks it's me," Hankinson said. "He's saying, 'Come on, Hank, pick it up, pick it up. Geez, Hank, what is wrong with you?' Finally after about 30 minutes, he goes over and he's right in Willy's face. And I'm like oh no. He's hot. We thought we were going to get in trouble. And then Wooger just laughed and said, 'Oh! What a great prank!' He could just go with the flow."