Former Washington Capitals star Rod Langway remains estranged from his daughter
The tears started to form in Hannah Sasscer's eyes as soon as she looked up from her cellphone and began talking, just 30 minutes removed from the dramatic sequence that ended her season as goalie of the Whitman girls' soccer team. In a span of 30 seconds in the Maryland 4A West semifinals, Sasscer had gone from making an incredible kick save on a breakaway with a minute remaining to watching the winning goal fly past her to the back of the net.
Leaning against the concession-stand wall, Sasscer, a 16-year-old junior at the Bethesda high school, knew she had another year for redemption. But soccer is her life and the defeat stung. Losing just isn't in her DNA.
"I've always kind of had that competitive side," she later explained. "I think in the back of my mind, knowing my father was a professional athlete makes me more realistic that if he can do it, I can do it. . . . Seeing how far he made it athletically has only made me work harder to try and get there."
Sasscer is the daughter of former Washington Capitals star Rod Langway, but her father has been absent from her life. The two haven't seen each other for more than a few seconds since she was 3 years old.
Sasscer is a three-year starter for Whitman and a member of one of the Washington area's top club soccer teams, the Bethesda Dragons. Her soccer talents have her on the verge of securing a Division I scholarship, with schools from the Big Ten, Big East and Atlantic 10 conferences showing interest. The source for her drive to succeed can be traced directly to Langway's shadow, a presence in her life that has her both angry and confused.
"I always wanted to be the next Mia Hamm or like the next superstar soccer Olympian . . . and go knock on his front door and go, 'Hah, I'm more famous than you,' " said Sasscer, sitting on a couch in the two-bedroom condominium she shares with her mother. "I just don't understand. If I had a child, there wouldn't be any way, nothing could stop me from seeing that kid. It's part of you, you made that child. To not want to be a part of someone's life is just . . . "
Her voice trails off. She doesn't know what to say.
Over the course of her life, she's had to explain her story to friends, teachers, coaches, all of who seem to know her father, one of the greatest Capitals of all time, better than she does. They always ask why. Why won't he see her, why won't he become a part of her life?
Hannah has no answers.
"It's an emotional roller coaster," said her mother, Scarlett Sasscer. "I think she does want to talk to him, but I think logically, she's like, 'Why would I want to do that?' It's very hard."
The only photo Hannah has of the two of them together is from her baptism. It shows Langway cradling his daughter -- then about 1 -- in his arms. Both are smiling.
"As I got older, people would ask me about him, and I swear this is true: I would just say he died because that's a much easier story," she said. "Ever since I've been 13, I think I've been more mature, and it has been hard for me to make friends, because it's hard for someone who grew up with -- I don't want to say I didn't have anything because I'm so grateful for all the things that I have and had growing up -- but it's hard to hear stories of these Bethesda kids who have had everything, the perfect two kids, the perfect family, and it's hard to make friends, I guess.