University of Wisconsin–Madison

Alex Frecon ’09 Passing the Puck in Pyongyang

When Alex Frecon ’09 left his home in Minnesota to play hockey against the North Korean men’s national team in Pyongyang in March 2017, he didn’t tell his parents — or anyone else except for two close friends.

“I didn’t want to hear everyone’s opinion,” Frecon says. “I wanted to do it for myself.”

Frecon had read and admired Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” as an English major at UW–Madison after transferring from Connecticut College his junior year. And today, working in advertising in Minneapolis, he retains the nonconformist, seize-the-day spirit the campus gave him. Which might explain how Frecon ended up spending a week on skates in one of the world’s most notorious dictatorships.

In late 2016, Frecon came across an internet link to the Howe International Friendship League, which promotes goodwill sports trips around the world. One of them was an opportunity to travel to Pyongyang and play hockey against the North Korean national team.

“It looked like a real trip,” Frecon says. “But I had no intention of going, originally. It was just so crazy.”

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