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Dan Rogness, volunteer extraordinaire, made Alaska hockey go round

Dan Rogness was a behind-the-scenes force in Alaska hockey. (Courtesy of the Rogness family)

For the better part of three decades, countless Alaska hockey coaches, administrators, parents and assorted officials who needed a question answered accurately and promptly received the same response: Call Dan.

"If you didn't want to look in the 500-page book, you called Dan,'' recalled Dennis Sorenson, the longtime Dimond High and youth coach. "He usually knew the rule, and he'd tell you. And then he'd double-check it to make sure.''

That was Dan Rogness, the seemingly indispensable resource who touched Alaska hockey at all levels, from the lower reaches of USA Hockey youth pucks, through high school and UAA, to the now-departed professional Alaska Aces.

Rogness, 74, died Sunday of complications following lung surgery three days prior. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Kati; son Paul, an engineer like his father; daughter Jennifer Schmitz, an educator like her mother — she's principal at Scenic Park Elementary — and four grandchildren.

And he is mourned by an entire hockey community, who viewed him like the ice and the boards and the Zamboni: Ever-present.

He was a rink rat of the highest order, always cheerful and goalie-reflex quick with a dead-pan comment.

Rogness for parts of two decades was USA Hockey's Pacific District registrar — a region that covers Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Hawaii. He was heavily involved in the Selects program that annually sends each district's best youth players to district and national camps, and he was Alaska's associate registrar.

He was chief supervisor of off-ice officials for Aces home games and official timekeeper during their 14-season run in the ECHL. He worked off-ice duties at UAA games. He was timekeeper and public address announcer for high school games at Ben Boeke Arena. He served on the boards of hockey organizations and with UAA's Blueliner Booster Club. He worked penalty boxes, managed youth teams, organized tournaments and even coached a little.

"He was kind of the ultimate hockey volunteer,'' said Anchorage's Kris Knauss, a Pacific District director for USA Hockey.

Rogness' reach knew few boundaries. Travis Frisk, an Anchorage youth hockey coach who worked as an off-ice official under Rogness' supervision for Aces games at Sullivan Arena, said Rogness served as a touchstone.

Countless times, Frisk said, a player from a visiting team competing against UAA or the Aces came off the ice, saw Rogness and recognized him from the past.

"Think of all those kids when he was USA Hockey registrar — he saw every kid from Alaska, California and the Pacific District,'' Frisk said. "Dan has touched the kid's registration at some point in time, whether it was a Pacific District camp or a national camp.

"Dan Rogness was the gold standard for off-ice officials.''

And a darned good one who ran a tight, precise crew, said Joe Ernst, the ECHL's vice president of hockey operations.

"He was a good guy — all of them were good guys,'' Ernst said. "They took it seriously, but they were all good guys.''

John Jolly, a longtime Anchorage hockey contributor who worked on Rogness' off-ice crews and in many hockey capacities, said his friend's even, good-natured demeanor was a soothing presence in a world that features its share of in-fighting politics.

"The thing about Dan, he never got excited or angry,'' Jolly said. "Always calm, always level-headed, always gave good advice. He talked me off the ledge a couple times.''

That grace was present away from the rink too.

"That's him, all the way around,'' wife Kati said.

Frisk thinks Rogness' poise and precision around the rinks stemmed from his background as a civil engineer.

Rogness was a voracious reader of fiction — "He could read a book from Anchorage to Seattle,'' Kati recalled — and Frisk recalls many a USA Hockey trip on which he watched Rogness do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

Dan and Kati, a retired teacher, met in college at the University of Iowa, where Dan earned undergraduate and master's degrees in civil engineering. He worked his entire career for the Indian Health Service, an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service. The young couple made stops at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and in Aberdeen, South Dakota, before Dan was transferred to Alaska in 1969.

Kati had advance notice the 49th state was a destination — must have been all those Jack London books Dan read, and the lure of the outdoors, she said.

"In college, before we were even married, he told me, 'When I finish school, I'm going to live in Alaska,' '' Kati said.

Dan became involved in hockey in 1981, when Paul was in second grade and came home with a flyer about learning to play the game.

"I'm not even sure he had ever watched a hockey game,'' Paul said.

An outing to UAA to watch a Seawolves game followed.

"That did it for the whole family,'' Kati said.

Hockey had its hooks in the Rogness clan. And so began, for Dan, a life in rinks, more so after he and Kati retired in 1992.

"He loved it,'' Paul said. "If he thought of it as work, he wouldn't have done it.''

Sorenson said people like Dan Rogness, givers unconcerned with receiving credit, make the hockey world go 'round.

"Those are the ones who keep the game moving forward,'' Sorenson said. "They make sure the game is always growing and always progressing.

"They aren't about wins and losses. It's always win-win — 'What works best for the kids?' ''

Services are scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at St. John United Methodist Church, 1801 O'Malley Road. In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be made to the Scotty Gomez Foundation, which supports youth hockey.

Fitting — to the end, Dan Rogness' concern was not for himself, but for others.

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