John Hansen had a difficult time putting his emotions into words. In less than an hour, the football stadium at Osseo High School would officially bear his name, and Hansen was searching for a way to describe his feelings.
“Unreal” was the first word he discovered. “It’s hard for me to take it all in and understand that this is really happening,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
It happened last Friday before Osseo hosted Park Center in the Orioles’ first home game of the season. The stadium has been known for decades as Carl A. Tonn Field, named after a prominent school board member who served from 1948 to 1966.
Hansen’s name was added to the facility -- now known as John D. Hansen Stadium at Carl Tonn Field – for one good reason. No, make that two good reasons: Hansen was not only Osseo’s football coach for 40 years, he also was the school’s choral music director for the same period of time. From 1952 until 1992, Hansen served countless numbers of students in athletics as well as music.
Jim Tonn, son of Carl Tonn (who died in 2001), was one of many former athletes and singers who were on hand for Friday’s stadium dedication. Jim was the captain of John’s first championship team in 1954.
“John is a fine man, to say the least,” Jim Tonn said. “My dad and John were the best of friends.”
Friday’s pregame ceremony was very special. The Tonn family was recognized and given a new plaque that honors Carl, and Hansen (pictured with his wife Bev) received a similar plaque bearing the new name of the stadium. The national anthem was sung by current Osseo music students as well as many former students of Hansen’s. Seeing all the people whose lives were touched by Hansen was a tribute to a great educator and a great person.
“John Hansen was the best football coach. All you heard growing up was getting to play for coach Hansen,” said Mike Korton, a 1989 grad who was named Osseo’s male athlete of the year as a senior. Korton is now the head football at Champlin Park High School, and his presence at Friday’s ceremony said everything about how he feels toward Hansen.
The ceremony began at 4:45 p.m., with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Champlin Park had a 7 o'clock home game that night, but Korton was missing the preparation for his team’s game to honor Hansen.
“I know I’m supposed to be at pregame right now with my kids,” Korton said. “But my kids understand where I am. I grew up three blocks from here, so I’d sit on my steps as a little kid and listen to the games and wonder, ‘What’s that going on? It sounds like a circus up there.’ And you grow up wanting to become part of the circus. And it was great.
“Coach Hansen never did anything wrong. He always respected everybody, he treated you like you wanted to be treated. I hope I can be a coach like him someday. I don’t know if I can do it for 40 years, though.”
When Korton played for Hansen, Craig Hansen (no relation) was the offensive line coach. Hansen went on to a long career as the head coach at Maple Grove, where he retired from coaching after last season.
“John Hansen and Craig Hansen had a big impact on me,” Korton said. “I told them I was going to become a coach.”
The newly named Hansen-Tonn facility was built in 1970, and before that the football field was where the baseball field outfield now stands. Hansen retired with a record 259-105-13, making him the winningest football coach in Minnesota at the time. As the 2011 season began, he was tied for 12th on the all-time list.
Hansen’s teams were undefeated in 1963, 1969 and 1970, winning the mythical state title in 1970 (before playoffs began). In 1986 the Orioles played at the Metrodome in the Prep Bowl, losing to Apple Valley.
“When I was in high school, if anybody had told me that I was going to be a music teacher, I would have told them they were crazy” said Hansen, a 1946 graduate of St. Louis Park. “I enjoyed music very much, I sang in the choir and also played football, basketball, track. That was kind of my main interest, yet I really loved the music part of it, I loved to sing.”
He was in the Navy for two years after high school, then went to Hamline University in St. Paul. After graduating from Hamline, he was hired by Osseo to fill the two jobs he held for 40 years.
“Being in the Navy gave me a chance to kind of grow up a little bit and in my mind decide what to do as far as my life,” he said. “My two main interests were music and athletics, and that’s exactly what I went into. I found that I enjoyed both of them equally, and there were some great performers in both of them.
“It was just a treat to go to work every day, and that’s why I didn’t retire early. I loved it, I really did. I just loved it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven: 1,604
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