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Published December 21 2010

Weissenhofer latest commit to Air Force with local ties

A five-year military commitment just to play hockey sounds like a hard sell – just not in Fargo-Moorhead.

Dan Weissenhofer, a defenseman with the Fargo Force junior hockey team, committed to the Air Force Academy on Monday, making him the ninth player the school has recruited with area ties in the last four years.

Weissenhofer, who has two goals and eight assists, and Force teammate Chad Demers, who committed last week, helped Air Force wrap up its recruiting class.

“Basically it is everything they have to offer,” said Weissenhofer, who will attend Air Force next year. “From the coaches to the players, it gives me an opportunity to succeed at hockey, but off the ice also.”

Air Force assistant Andy Berg, who cannot comment on verbal commits, said the school’s connections help them with recruiting.

Berg said he and other coaches often address the mandatory five-year commitment any cadet entering the school has to make to any potential commit.

The point they make is the Air Force is a military branch that does more high-tech work than other branches.

“What they would be doing in the Air Force is no different than what they’d be doing at a normal company,” said Berg, who just retired from the Air Force. “If they want to stay in that’s fine and if they want to do their five years that’s fine too because they will be set for life. Our network rivals that of any Ivy League school.”

Air Force is also at a bit of a disadvantage compared to other schools because it cannot recruit foreigners.

Berg, who has been at Air Force for four years, said the school can only recruit foreigners if they are dual citizens or if one of their parents is an American citizen.

Heavily recruiting the Midwest is another thing Air Force has done to attract recruits and make up for not recruiting outside the country. Seven of the nine players in the incoming class are also from the Midwest.

Air Force has 18 players on its roster from the Midwest including Fargo South’s Paul Weisgarber and Moorhead’s Matt Becker, whose brother, Brian, also played there.

Recruiting the Midwest, in turn, does pay off in the case of Demers, from Grafton, N.D.

“Weisgarber’s mom was a teacher at South when I went there in my first year here,” Demers said. “It was nice because I can talk to him and ask him questions. His grandma lives in Grafton and I knew them making it easier to talk to him about it.”

Demers said he and Weissenhofer were both offered by Air Force around the same time.

It was an easy decision for Demers because it helped him reach his goal of playing college hockey while being reunited with former Force teammate Cole Gunner, who was traded to Chicago last season.

Weissenhofer also had some old teammates that committed to Air Force giving him something to think about. Then when Demers committed, it made the choice a little bit easier.

“It took me a couple of months to think about it,” Weissenhofer said. “Then I realized going to Air Force was the best thing for me.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548