DU Hockey Alumnus Deane Hansen Passes Away

Tragedy and sadness have touched the Pioneer hockey program once again this holiday season with the suicide of University of Denver alumnus Deane Hansen, 60, who played four seasons for the Pioneers between 1980 and 1984.

Hansen was found dead on Dec. 27, 2022, in a Littleton, Colo. park after many years of struggle with mental health issues, despite multiple interventions and assistance from family, friends, health professionals, and recovery facilities.

Born in Minneapolis and raised in Jamestown, Colo. (near Boulder), Hansen excelled at ice hockey.  Before coming to DU, he played junior hockey in 1979-80 with the Bellingham (Wash.) Blazers, a British Columbia Junior Hockey League team loaded with DU-bound future teammates (and fellow forwards) including Dave Anderson, Ian Ramsay, and Dave Berry. Hansen also played for the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL that season and DU offered him a scholarship to come to Denver for the following season.

In his college days at Denver, Hansen was a 6-2, 195-pound forward on the Denver teams of the early 1980s. While not a big point producer, he was known for his versatility (playing mostly forward with some time on defense), his on-ice toughness, his heavy slap shot, and his ability to create offensive zone space for DU’s more skilled forwards. His senior season in 1983-84 was his most productive at DU, where he was elected as an alternate captain, was a top-six forward in ice time, and put up a college-career best seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points in 39 games. His penalty minutes also exploded to 70 PIM for the season after never topping 29 PIM in each of his other three DU seasons.

Deane Hansen (left) rushes the net vs. Colorado College in a 1983 game at the old DU Arena. Photo Credit: DU Archives and Special Collections.

After college graduation that year in 1984, his strong senior year DU performance had earned him a plane ticket to Sweden, where he spent the next two seasons playing pro hockey for Tingsryds AIF — then a Swedish Division I club in the south of the country. There, he scored 18 goals and added 21 assists in his 62 games played between 1984 and 1986. Hansen then retired from hockey.

After hockey, Hansen returned to the Denver area, where his then-wife, Renée Arko, a fellow DU classmate, gave birth to their two daughters.  Deane and Renée later divorced.

“Deane was a great teammate and friend,” said Dan Vlaisavljevich, a DU defenseman who played several years with Hansen at DU. “He gave his best every shift he was on the ice, and we’re pleased to help his family now at this time of need.” 

Deane Hansen (at right) in his DU playing days in the early 1980s. Also pictured is DU teammate Dan Vlaisavljevich (at left) and Dave Mogush (at center), then a player at Northern Michigan University. Photo Credit: Dan Vlaisavljevich

Hansen leaves behind two young adult daughters, Erika Arko Hansen and Alexandra Arko Hansen, both of Lone Tree, Colo. His family wishes DU fans to be aware that Hansen’s mental health issues led to periods of homelessness and indigence that mitigated his ability to provide for his own funeral/burial. Erika and Alexandra are in their early 20s and not yet in a financial position to provide a funeral for their father.

Hansen’s DU friends and hockey teammates have joined together to help provide funds for the interment and there is now a GoFundMe page for those who wish to contribute. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced when they become solidified.

Puck Swami is a longtime Pioneer fan and alumnus.

11 thoughts on “DU Hockey Alumnus Deane Hansen Passes Away”

  1. Deane’s story is a call that we need to pay attention to.
    I did not know Deane, but I am touched by his and his family’s call for heltp.

  2. This situation is very sad on many levels. So many people tried to help Deane over the years in so many ways and in the end, they were all powerless to stop the downward spiral.

    That said, there are some positive notes to emerge from the darkness…

    First, it is gratifying to see so many of Deane’s teammates, classmates and fellow Pioneer family members stepping up to help the family. In just 24 hours since the GoFund Me page was created, over $20,000 has been raised, relieving his young daughters of the financial burden of the funeral/interment. They are both incredibly brave young women, and have been upfront, eloquent and honest about their father’s mental health and difficult financial situation. Bravo to them for not sweeping these issues under the proverbial rug…

    Second, tragedies like this also bring the survivors together, and I’ve heard about teammates and classmates reconnecting after years apart, and that’s a good thing, too.

    Finally, I think as a society, we’re only recently starting coming to grips with the incredible human reality of mental health struggles and associated substance abuse issues. In a future of de-stigmatizing these kind of situations, other families may avoid the horrific reality that Deane’s family and those who loved him have been dealing with for 20 years…

    1. This was so nice, your recognition of Deane, his girls. Thank you. Ardell, Renée’s sister.

  3. Thanks for covering this Puck. You did a great job telling the family’s story and how we can help. It also says a lot about the DU hockey culture, one that reaches well beyond the ice.

  4. I knew Dean and Renee this is so sad he wrote me a very nice note after we raised money for his rehap thought it was going to work

  5. The support and genorosity for Deane’s daughter’s has been amazing. Thank you for stepping up Pioneer Family.

  6. Best wishes to all of the Hansen family and all who knew Deane.

    It’s never too late to reach out or lend a helping hand to someone experiencing mental health challenges/substance abuse issues. Those are very real things.

  7. I have fond memories of Deane from DU. I was very saddened to read in the DU alumni magazine that he passed away. My deepest sympathy to his two daughters.

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