WASILLA — The Valley’s hockey community gathered at the Brett Memorial Ice Arena Oct. 16 to honor Dave “The Hammer” Hanson’s life and legacy.
The Wasilla Warriors high school team faced off against “Team Hammer” for a memorial hockey match after several heartfelt speeches about Hanson, a longtime referee and fixture at local rinks, and how much of an impact he made to the local hockey community.
“He made us all a little better,” speaker and longtime friend, Stan George, said during the opening ceremony.
Diane Firmani said that she was grateful to see so many people rally together to show how much her husband meant to the hockey community and how much he will be missed.
“It touched my heart,” Firmani said.
Firmani dropped the ceremonial puck at the start of the game. She said they have countless memories of the Brett Memorial Ice Arena, and it felt right having the ceremonial game for Hanson there.
“This was our home, the Brett… I knew everyone loved him. They loved The Hammer. They never called him Dave,” Firmani said with a laugh.
Louis Imbriani and Hugh Towe arranged the ceremonial game, rounding up help from across the Valley and beyond to make it happen. People from all over filled the bleachers and surrounded the rink to watch and root the players on.
“It’s fantastic. I’m very happy with the turnout. They practically demanded to play,” Imbriani said with a laugh.
Alaska Hockey Officials President Scott Sivulich said that Hanson went above and beyond for the sport, always helping out wherever he could, whether it was giving a kid a roll of tape or a pair of skates so they wouldn’t miss a game or investing countless hours behind the scenes to hold the hockey community together.
“He filled a very understated role. He was there if anybody needed anything,” Sivulich said. “He was a mentor and a friend… Hammer was there, and I know I’m not the only one. My heart is broken for a man who had such a big heart for the community.”
Sivulich said that he knew Hanson for over three decades. He said that he’s going to miss Hanson’s humor and the sense of camaraderie he gave off everywhere he went. He wasn’t surprised to see the ice rink packed full of people who felt the same way.
“It just goes to show you how The Hammer was loved by the community,” Sivulich said.
Imbriani said that Hanson was one of the most caring, sincere, and easy-going people he ever met. He said that his impact is unparalleled and will be forever remembered in the Valley’s hockey community. He said that he’s going to miss laughing at his jokes and seeing him with his signature cup of coffee always in hand.
“I don’t know if there’s any other person I’ve met or played with who wants to see others enjoy the game as much as he did,” Imbriani said.
Imbriani encourages those who wish to honor Hanson’s legacy to do what he did by simply being involved with local sports programs and support the community as a whole wherever possible.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org