Michigan State A.J. Thelen is also on the team. I really hope that this works out for Hagemo...
After battling addiction, prospective Blades defenseman happy to be back on ice.
By ANGELA BUSCH
ESTERO — Many of the players in Florida Everblades training camp have experienced ebbs and flows of stardom — from notoriety to anonymity — from the first round of the NHL draft to a long bus ride in hockey purgatory.
They’ve all been up and down. But it’s hard to find a Blades player who has been much higher, or lower, than Nate Hagemo.
Truth is, Hagemo’s not even a Blade yet. He’s trying out over the next two weeks, trying to earn a roster spot by proving himself on the ice.
He just wants on the team. Three years after being selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the NHL draft — less than four months removed from his latest arrest — Hagemo, 21, doesn’t really care about the headlines or the stardom anymore.
He just wants to play hockey again.
The Edina, Minn., native was once a part of a proud tradition of gopher state hockey. He won a high school state championship with the Academy of Holy Angels as a sophomore in 2002, then spent the next two seasons at the U.S. National Under-18 Team development site in Ann Arbor, Mich., with Blades defenseman A.J. Thelen, who’s also from Minnesota.
“We’ve been skating and playing against each other since we were 10, 11 years old,” Thelen said of Hagemo. “Especially that year in Ann Arbor, we were always going against each other. We could relate to each other.”
“Whenever we played together, it made me pick up my game,” Hagemo said. “I always looked at (Thelen), and he made me want to get better.”
In 2004, the Minnesota Wild made Thelen the 12th overall selection in the NHL draft. A year later, Hagemo was picked 58th overall by Carolina.
Thelen headed to powerhouse Michigan State, while Hagemo picked perennial Frozen Four contender Minnesota. The hometown hockey heroes were on their way.
The January arrest was Hagemo’s third run-in with the police since quitting Gophers hockey in 2006 due to complications from his shoulder injury and the addiction that was starting to interfere with his life.
That same year, he was arrested on suspicion of attempting to burglarize a house. In 2007, he was ticketed for refusing to take a blood-alcohol test after a traffic accident and for careless driving, with a revoked license.
Looking at Hagemo now, quiet with his teammates at Germain Arena, you’d never guess his past troubles. He’s one of the youngest players at Blades training camp and could almost be everyone else’s kid brother.
But Hagemo’s not just a wide-eyed hockey recruit anymore. Through his addiction, Hagemo saw places — including jail — he never thought he’d go. He knew he had to get help.
After his arrest in January, Hagemo enrolled in a 30-day treatment program in Minnesota. He says he has been sober since then and has just been focusing on getting back to hockey.
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