December 15, 2004
Postcard: Love, War and College Hockey

By Jess Myers

Crazy Dan Albrecht and Bonni Buisman got engaged at Friday night's St. Cloud State-Minnesota game. (Photo by Joshua Fox/SCSU Chronicle)

If you’ve ever answered one of those hypothetical questions about what you’d do with your final 24 hours of freedom, you know roughly how Dan Albrecht felt recently.

One of the more renowned hockey fans at St. Cloud State, Albrecht is known to many of the faithful at the National Hockey Center as “Crazy Dan” ever since he became the leader of what one day may be called the Shirtless Revolution. As a freshman, before embarking on a trek to the rink to watch the Huskies play North Dakota, Crazy Dan apparently couldn’t decide which shirt to wear. So he gave up, drew a big number 13 on his chest (for Conrad Reeder his favorite Husky at the time) with a Sharpie marker and walked the two blocks to the rink. Thus, a trend was born.

Eventually, several more fans joined in the shirtless trend (for the record, all of them male), and Crazy Dan’s gameday outfit came to include a cowboy hat and a bright red wig. He also made a switch was made from permanent marker to paint, when Crazy Dan learned the hard way that Sharpie drawings take a few weeks to completely come off human skin. And Crazy Dan became as fierce an advocate of the shirtless lifestyle as you’ll ever want to meet, even walking shirtless to the game versus North Dakota last season when it was -15 outside, and waiting in line for tickets (outside) for 45 minutes that night. Crazy Dan admits that was the craziest thing he ever did, but boasts proudly that he didn’t get sick.

Now in his third year of school and well on the way toward his goal of becoming a high school history teacher, Crazy Dan recently felt the need for a change, and in this time of war, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. The recent Huskies home game versus arch-rival Minnesota was to be Crazy Dan’s final National Hockey Center appearance before shipping out to basic training in San Diego. And for a fan that’s made so much noise on behalf of the home team, there was clearly a need to make a memorable exit.

About a year ago, Crazy Dan had met fellow SCSU history student Bonni Buisman at a Huskies game, and after winning a bet with a friend about who could eat more hot chicken wings later than night, he earned the right to ask her out. Their relationship progressed to the point where Crazy Dan was able to enlist Bonni’s assistance in painting “USMC” on his bare back before the last game. Unlike Elaine from “Seinfeld,” Bonni apparently has no qualms about attending a hockey game with a face-painter.

In November, after Bonni and Crazy Dan had dated for several months, he and a few friends hatched a grand top-secret plan to make his final Huskies game even more memorable. With the Huskies killing a Gopher power play in the first period of Crazy Dan’s last National Hockey Center appearance for some time, several fans behind the Minnesota bench (across the ice from the student section where Crazy Dan and Bonni were standing) hoisted a series of signs. Strung together, the placards read: WILL YOU MARRY ME, BONNI? (HEART) DAN.

With Huskies goalie Tim Boron turning aside a Gopher flurry, and the sellout crowd roaring, not many could hear her response to his proposal, but not long after Crazy Dan slipped an engagement ring on Bonni’s finger, the student section erupted in a chant of “SHE SAID YES! SHE SAID YES! SHE SAID YES!” (One of the rare printable chants you’ll ever hear emanating from the National Hockey Center’s student section.)

The evening’s only downer came in overtime, when Jake Fleming’s goal sent the hated Gophers home victorious, but Crazy Dan even found a silver lining in that dark cloud over St. Cloud.

“With the Gophers as good as they are, and playing the top team in the country, the Huskies could’ve gotten blown away, but they held their own,” he said. “But if we would’ve won I was going to rush the ice.”

Instead, Crazy Dan is shedding the body paint to become a Marine. He flies to California in early February for three months of basic training, and says he and Bonni will make firm marriage plans once his training is complete and he gets his orders from the Marines.

“If I get deployed to Iraq or somewhere overseas, we’ll probably get married quickly before I go,” said Crazy Dan. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Whatever happens, and whatever life lessons come from Crazy Dan’s journey from superfan to soldier, he’s already learned something important: it’s good to have someone to love, whether it’s a plucky college hockey team that won’t back down in the face of a superior opponent, or a friendly blonde with a smile that melts your heart.

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