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.
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.”
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.