Rachel Becker, a 2006 Bemidji State graduate, is a pretty popular woman in Washington, D.C., these days.
"I've become very popular in the office," says Becker. "Our owner and general manager and president have all stopped by just to wish Bemidji well and that they're going to be cheering for them, and proud to know that an alumna is working for them."
Pay attention, Bemidji State hockey players -- the office Becker works for is the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals as a game entertainment coordinator. And it's the Capitals' home turf, the Verizon Center, that you'll be playing in to open the NCAA Division I Frozen Four next weekend.
"I'm beyond excited," Becker said Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview from her office. ""It was an amazing weekend for the team, and for any alumni, and I definitely look forward to welcoming the team to D.C."
Bemidji State made college hockey history last weekend with commanding 5-1 and 4-1 wins over Notre Dame and Cornell, respectively, to capture the Midwest Regional to become the first college hockey team outside the traditional "Big Four" major college hockey leagues to reach the Frozen Four.
Becker, a Park Rapids native, the Beavers No. 1 in D.C., hopes to help team members find their way around the nation's capital and make them feel at home.
"I'll be attending (the games) as a fan, but I'll definitely be helping, because I'm out here in D.C., the team answer any questions they have, arrange tours around the capital and give suggestions for places to eat," she said.
"I'll also help alumni travel and giving them suggestions where to stay and obviously where to eat again, and hopefully helping to put together some tailgate parties and just lending my assistance in any way possible to anyone in Bemidji who's coming out."
Becker was the subject Tuesday in the Washington Posts' "D.C. Sports Bog" by Dan Steinberg, who wrote that she "is a proud Bemidji grad. Like, extremely proud. Like, yesterday, she wore a BSU ring, Beavers necklace, Bemidji pin, and Bemidji-green business suit, while proudly displaying her Bucky the Beaver bubblehead and her signed Bemidji sweater."
He notes that Becker traveled to Robert Morris and Niagara this year to see the Beavers play them, and went to Philly over the weekend to watch Rob Sirianni, a former Beaver star. While most of the nation is occupied with NCAA basketball brackets, she posted NCAA ice hockey brackets in her cubicle.
Her picks for the Frozen Four were BSU, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota and Air Force. Well, she got the right one right.
The unabashed Becker must have won over Steinberg. In a later live blog, he answers a question about Bemidji State with: "Green and white, baby. The Bemidji Beavers will be confounding typists throughout the Frozen Four. I just wrote an item about a Bemidji fan who works for the Caps, and I think every time I spelled it wrong: Bmidji and Bemedji and Bemidgi and a million other variations.
"I don't follow collegiate hockey closely enough to say this on my own, but I just read a Wall Street Journal item that suggested a Beavers national title might be the biggest upset in the history of collegiate sports. If that's not a reason to learn how to spell the dang name, I don't know what is."
What brought Becker to D.C. is even more amazing. Her background is politics -- serving in the Student Senate at BSU, interning for then-Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, working local campaigns and with U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, and as a paid campaign staffer for Republican Doug Lindgren in his Bagley House race.
She was an alternate delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. She went to the nation's capital to work for the National Association of Secretaries of State.
"When I moved out to D.C. and worked in politics kind of on a whim, I decided to take a part-time job working for the Washington Capitals and was hired to be part of their entertainment team," she said.
She worked promotions for the team, and lined up activities to pump up the crowd during games and team-sponsored events.
"I took that job because I love hockey and I didn't think I could afford tickets to the games and what better way than to use my background in working events in politics than to work events for hockey," Becker said.
When her boss left, Becker was asked to move up and she did. "I came to love the sport even more and I love working in production in taking the blank slate of a hockey game and entertaining the fans. Whether the team wins, the team loses, that we make sure that the fans had a good time at the event."
And that's been good this year, as the Capitals have clinched a playoff spot with 99 points and second place in the Eastern Conference.
"The opportunity came up this season that they were opening up a full-time position in game entertainment, which is the production side of hockey," she said. "I plan on making this a career for a long time, but I do hope to circle back to politics at some point."
Becker is also excited about Friday, when the city of Bemidji will hold ground-breaking ceremonies for the Bemidji Regional Event Center, which will be the new home for Beaver hockey, as well as a later rally to boost Bemidji State's hopeful entry into the WCHA.
"That is so exciting," said Becker, adding that as a BSU student senator, the push for an event center was one of the first things she supported. "I was the author of the first Student Senate bill that was passed to provide the student support behind the event center -- and I've been following it all along, even when I left Bemidji.
"I've always just been there to support the team, and Bemidji State hockey is kind of my hockey roots and the reason I work in professional hockey right now," Becker added. "I owe a lot to the program, and anyway I can support them I'm always there for them."