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Frozen Four was icing on wedding cake for couple who met here in '03

Kim Ferris and Dale Hansen from Minneapolis met at the NCAA's Frozen Four college hockey tournament in Buffalo in 2003, when teams competed at First Niagara Center.

Harborcenter and 716 were just parking lots then and "canalside" was somewhere in North Tonawanda. But the city of Buffalo isn’t the only thing that’s changed.

Kim and Dale married months after they met, on New Year’s Eve in 2003.

The couple returned to Buffalo this week, to attend this year's Frozen Four and retrace the steps that brought them together.

“We’re from the bold north,” said Kim, who was 40 when she met Dale. “Who plans a trip to Buffalo in April after just going through winter in Minnesota?”

But theirs is a love story whose first chapter was written here 16 years ago.

On Fridays, the day after the tournament begins, there are no games. It is traditionally filled with various tournament-related events such as the presentation of the Hobey Baker Award for excellence in collegiate hockey, similar to college football's Heisman Trophy.

Dale attended open practice that day with his brother and a few friends at the arena. After watching practice they searched for a bar to watch the Masters Golf Tournament on television and smoke cigars. They tried a couple venues, but none televised golf. In Chippewa bar Soho they scored a hat trick: golf, burgers and an outdoor patio that allowed cigar smoking.

At age 38, Dale was a single attorney who lived with Zelda his cat, named after the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Born in southern Minnesota, Dale lived in St. Paul and edited legal documents for publication. He and his brother attended their first Frozen Four in 1986 and have not missed many since.

Kim stayed at the University of Minnesota’s team hotel, the Sheraton Four Points in Amherst. Kim’s father, Thomas Greenhoe, served as assistant sports information director for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She grew up with University of Minnesota sports.

She was divorced for five years and raising a daughter. She was “single and really enjoying it,” she recalled. On that Friday, she attended the Hobey Baker ceremony and then headed to Soho to meet up with friends.

Dale and Kim met at Soho, where they were introduced by mutual friends. Kim was caught by Dale’s electric smile. Dale did not really recall that initial encounter, though he did remember running into Kim at a Gopher pep fest the following day.

Back home, it would take a while before they went on their first date, but once they did the dating advanced rapidly, fueled by their love of sports and an establishment named Stub & Herb’s in Minneapolis. On their third date, the night Kim cooked him spaghetti – he envisioned marrying her.

With 35 friends as witnesses, Kim wore a red dress at their holiday wedding in front of a fireplace in the living room of her house. It is now their home. They honeymooned at a resort in Wisconsin and have been together in sports ever since.

Kim, 57, an energetic woman who built her career on public relations, now serves as president of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. Dale practiced as an attorney for 25 years and now works for Enterprise car rental in Minneapolis.

Returning to Buffalo completed the circle they started in ’03, the Hansens said. Upon arrival at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, they were given a welcome box of "Buf Stuff" – T-shirts, Finger Lakes wine, glasses and sponge candy – courtesy of the Visit Buffalo Niagara.

They cheered for the defending champion University of Minnesota Duluth's Bulldogs as they beat Providence 4-1 to advance to the finals.

"It’s great to be back. We've noticed Buffalo is a lot more built up," said Dale. "And we're still going strong."

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