Minnesota Star, Fasching, Finds Comfort, Purpose Playing For Hometown Team
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
When Hudson Fasching returned to Minnesota for the first time after moving away from home, he thought of one thing.
“I just miss the smell of Minnesota,” Fasching said.
For two years, Fasching attended the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. In his first season with the U.S. U-17 team, Fasching scored 34 points (15g, 19a) in 53 games.
But the numbers weren’t as good as what Fasching put up before he joined the NTDP.
“I wasn’t really evaluating myself as critically as I needed to be throughout the season,” Fasching says.
He was also feeling the pull of his family back home in Minnesota, missing his parents, and missing his siblings, who have special needs.
In the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Fasching’s stock fell — down to the 118th pick, where the Los Angeles Kings picked him up.
“Going into it I had a higher ranking and it fell kind of through the year. I think that was just me not paying attention to it. So I guess [going through it] wasn’t really that hard,” Fasching says with a laugh. “Because I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Fasching, now halfway through his freshman year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, has 22 points. His total ranks second amongst Minnesota freshmen.
“It was kind of a wake up call for me a little bit and it’s definitely been a motivator for me going forward,” Fasching says.
The Competitive Nature
When Hudson was six years old, he’d face his grandfather in cribbage. But Hudson always lost to his grandfather — who played professionally — and the six-year-old never liked it.
“[He’s] the most competitive freak you’ve ever seen,” Hudson’s dad, Rick says.
Hudson acted the same way when he played tennis with his mom, Shannon, when he was younger.
“His mom’s a pretty good tennis player [and] she’d be beating him. And then he’d get really mad, like crazy mad, and then she would lay off and not try as hard. Then he’d be even more mad because he knew she wasn’t trying,” Rick says.
“The competitive side of him is off the charts. Unfortunately, he comes by that naturally, his mom and dad are probably two of the most competitive people and he has taken it though to a whole another level.”
Originally from South Bend, Ind., Hudson Fasching didn’t skate very much. But when the Faschings moved to Minnesota, a four-year-old Hudson started learning how to play hockey.
Practice was a little difficult for the first-year skater.
“The only thing I remember about him is that he was sweating his heinie off because he was working so hard not to fall,” Hudson’s dad, Rick, says. “He comes home and he’s, ‘Oh my back, my back, my back’s killing me.’
“But after that things started clicking. He’s a pretty determined young man.”
Technically Hudson, born in July, was too young to start skating. But Rick submitted the paperwork anyway.
“I wasn’t trying to be the psycho hockey parent,” Rick says. “He was really young for his grade so he didn’t make the cutoff. I was trying to get him in so he would start skating with kids his age as opposed to the starting the next year and be not with the group of kids that he was going to school with.”
The Apple Valley Hockey Association accepted the paperwork, and Hudson started playing. While growing up, Hudson skated with fellow Gopher sophomore A.J. Michaelson and against current teammates Brady Skej and Justin Kloos.
“I was one of his coaches, and [it was] a fantastic experience. … Those four all live within five miles of each other,” Rick says. “So it was a great unique experience getting him started.”
The Path to the USNTDP
Growing up in Apple Valley, Minn., Hudson played tennis and soccer along with hockey. In his freshman year, his high school hockey team went to the Minnesota State Tournament and upset Blaine and current teammate Michael Brodzinski. His soccer team won state titles while Hudson played there.
The forward netted 92 points during his two years at Apple Valley High School, recording 50 points in 28 games in his last season. After his sophomore year, in March of 2011, USA Hockey invited Hudson to the NTDP Evaluation Camp — and he earned a spot on the 2011-12 U-17 team.
“[He had] a lot of positive stuff going on, a lot to give up and sacrifice,” Rick says. “But at the end of the day he wanted to play Division I college hockey for the Gophers, he wants to play in the NHL.”
Hudson felt playing for the NTDP would improve his skating, skills and hockey intelligence.
But he also had to leave his two younger siblings, Mallory and Cooper. The pair, who are in wheelchairs, cannot speak or move. Cooper, two years younger, and Mallory, four years younger, have a rare genetic condition known as a mitochondrial disorder. Originally, doctors told the Faschings that Cooper's condition was one-in-a-million, but after having Mallory, they realized that the parents' genetics somehow reacted in such a way that made the condition likely.
Somehow, it had by-passed Hudson.
Traveling all around the country, going to doctors and hospitals, made the Fasching family very close. But when it time to decide about Ann Arbor, Hudson's mom, Shannon, urged him to go.
"Hudson had already sacrificed enough for us," they said.
But it wasn't easy.
“He’s always been genuinely concerned about his brother and sister,” Rick says. “He’s never been, even as a younger teenager where maybe you’re awkward around two kids in a wheelchair, he never had an ounce of anything. I think it’s made him more compassionate towards other people that maybe have some sort of physical or mental handicap as well.
“He treats those people with respect and he also has an innate sense to protect those people. He really makes me proud.”
Backed by his family, Hudson departed for Ann Arbor just after his 16th birthday.
“I’ve never cried that hard in my life. It was very difficult,” Rick says. “He had just gotten his driver’s license and we were sending him to Michigan to live with another family.”
But Rick, and his mother Shannon, never stopped supporting him.
“It was hard on my family a little bit but I think they understood obviously that kind of this was important to me,” Hudson says. “They supported me throughout that and obviously were OK with me leaving. They were almost, not in the way of pushing me, but they wanted me to follow my dream and be able to get better and be able to fulfill my role as a hockey player.”
Living in Ann Arbor
Roughly a 10-hour drive separates Apple Valley and Ann Arbor. But Rick and Shannon crossed the distance as much as they could, travelling to the NTDP’s Ann Arbor Ice Cube. Or Youngstown, Ohio, and Muskegon, Mich., and even Chicago. Backed by flight passes from Shannon’s mother, a former Northwest flight attendant, Rick and Shannon spent two years traveling around the Midwest to see Hudson play when they could.
“He’s a pretty strong individual and I don’t think he needs us as much as he likes to see us,” Rick says.
Hudson admits he was a little homesick at first. He also had some guilt about getting the "good genes" in the family.
"Moving away, it's a whole new experience,” Hudson says. “It was kind of a growing up experience for me, just being away from home and having to take care of myself. Obviously I had a billet family there who was awesome, but you're a lot more responsible for yourself.”
He eventually adjusted to the atmosphere and the team, particularly becoming close with Gage Ausmus — his roommate and current North Dakota defenseman — as well as Michigan’s J.T. Compher and current Cornell defender Clint Lewis.
As a U-17 member, Fasching and his teammates played against older competition in the USHL. The next season, the NTDP pitted the players against collegiate competition.
“Short term it was very hard because your numbers weren’t where you’d necessarily want them to be,” Rick says. “The flip side of that though was the training and the experience that he was gathering was fantastic. He was bigger, stronger, faster because he was in Ann Arbor and the things that they thought him to do there.”
In 65 games with the U-18 team in 2012-13, Fasching recorded 36 points (11g, 25a). That season, the NTDP won silver at the U18 World Championship — Hudson’s favorite moment with the development program.
“I think even from a very young age [we] always talked about [the] remarkable opportunity to be able to represent the United States in other countries and wear the USA sweater,” Rick says. “Between his potential development there and the opportunity to play for his country where the two biggest deciding factors.”
Hudson represented his country again this season, joining the United States World Junior Championship roster in Malmo, Sweden. In five games, Hudson scored four points (2g, 2a) and a plus-2 rating.
From the Midwest to the West
The last time Hudson was near Los Angeles, he was around six years old. The Faschings were visiting the University of California hospital at San Diego for Mallory and Cooper during that time. The Faschings spent most of their time in the hospital, but Hudson never complained.
“We didn’t have to listen to any bickering or squawking about, ‘How come we’re not doing this or how come we’re not doing that?’ He was great,” Rick says.
“We played cards and we hung out and then one day we went to Legoland and it was kind of rainy. ... So we had the whole place to ourselves and it was like one of the best days ever. But after that, or before that, no complaining. ... It could’ve been a lot different and it was fantastic because he’s a fantastic kid.”
Hudson hasn’t been back since, and he wasn’t able to attend Kings Rookie Camp last summer because he was taking classes.
“I’ve been able to kind of understand living outside away from home and understand how that works,” Hudson says. “I mean, would I like to be a little bit closer to home? Yeah.
“But I’m just grateful to be drafted and obviously be drafted to such a great program like L.A.”
A Gopher For Life
When Hudson was four years old, Rick sometimes inherited tickets from a friend who owned Gophers season passes. Rick brought Hudson with him, and the younger Fasching grew up watching Minnesota play.
“I know I sound like a complete Minnesota Gopher lifer here so I apologize for that. I grew up in Minnesota, I had always been a huge Gopher hockey fan,” Rick says.
“You go, ‘Wow it would be great if he’d be a Gopher,’ just kind of chuckling around. When I saw his first picture of him in a Gopher uniform, it is amazing. It was an amazing chill.
“I still get the chills just thinking about it right now.”
Now Rick and Shannon attend most of Hudson’s games without worrying about missing any important moments.
“My brother and sister, unfortunately it's a little bit tougher challenge, make it out when they can,” Hudson says. “But if not they watch it at home on TV.”
Now closer to home, the 18-year-old visits his family on the weekends, mostly on Sundays when he has free time. Hudson, who’s enrolled in the Carlson School of Management, is trying to earn his degree in three years.
“We would tell you we don’t see him enough, he would say, ‘I see my parents way too much.’ So I guess it depends on who you’re asking,” Rick says with a laugh.
At Minnesota so far this season, Hudson has played in 27 games. He missed one contest due to the World Junior Championship.
“It’s been incredible to be able to step into a program like this,” Hudson says. “It’s really been a lot of fun so far and we have a really good team dynamic here, a good tradition of hockey and a good atmosphere.”
The Golden Gophers are 19-4-5 and recently strung together a 14-game unbeaten streak earlier, the program’s longest since 2006-07. Hudson’s 22 points rank 13th nationally amongst rookies.
It’s been three years since Hudson left for Ann Arbor. It’s been two years since his numbers began falling and over six months since his draft stock fell.
“Trying to stay mentally engaged, it’s hard," Fasching said. "You just [have] to stay focused and keep your head down and keep going. The mentality that I have is keep working, keep working and hopefully things will go your way and that’s all you can really do.”
On Oct. 5, Hudson pulled on Maroon and Gold for the first time when the Gophers played Lethbridge in an exhibition game.
“It was a little bit surreal, honestly,” Hudson says. “The recruiting process started when I was really young and it was kind of weird to even think about college when I was still a sophomore in high school. But it’s just incredible that I’m here and I’m living that dream right now.”
After taking his son to Gophers games, Rick just remembers the nerves while watching Hudson’s first game with Minnesota.
“When he played his state tournament games, that is about the only other time I can relate to actually being that fricking nervous. I can’t as an adult explain why I was so nervous. I don’t know if I was nervous for him, if I was nervous for me. I just remember being really, really rattled,” Rick says.
“I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but here in Minnesota the Gophers are kind of a big deal. They have a fantastic reputation as one of the college hockey elite. And to look up and see your kid in a Gopher uniform in front of 10,000 fans.”
“It’s damn exciting, I got to tell you.”