Lights Out – Strike Three for the Campus Lounge

The new ‘old version’ of the Campus Lounge reopened in the fall of 2018. After a return to the original sports themed bar and restaurant, local patrons were greeted with a hastily written note on the front door – “Closed Until Further Notice.”

Campus Lounge 3 Closed 2

The Bonnie Brae mainstay has now closed for a third time in three years after a long run under former DU hockey playing alum Jim Wiste, beginning in the 70’s. Continue reading Lights Out – Strike Three for the Campus Lounge

Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

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Chris Butler skates with the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2019 Champion St. Louis Blues/Photo: Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Chris Butler picked a glorious way to end his 11-year professional hockey career, going out as a Stanley Cup winner.

Wearing the uniform of his hometown team, the St. Louis Blues, the 32-year-old former Pioneer defenseman took his final skate on NHL ice on June 12th, holding aloft the Stanley Cup Trophy that he’d helped his Blues to win, appearing in 13 NHL games last season. Over his career, Butler had appeared in 407 NHL games with St. Louis, Calgary and Buffalo, with the rest of his career spent mostly in the AHL, as well as a short stint in Sweden in 2012-13. Over his NHL career, he’d scored 14 goals and picked-up 72 assists for 86 points. Continue reading Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

NHL Moving Day for Five Former Pioneer Hockey Players

Beau Bennett (Photo: St Louis Blues)

July 1  was moving day for several former DU Pioneer Hockey players, most of whom signed new contracts as the NHL free agent signing window opened on July 1.

-Former DU forward Beau Bennett, who played only 5 games last year in the KHL with Dynamo Minsk in Belarus, signed a one-year NHL contract with the Arizona Coyotes. He last played in the NHL with St. Louis.

-Former DU forward Nick Shore, who played last year in the KHL in Russia with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, signed a one-year NHL contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He last played in the NHL with Ottawa before signing in Russia last October.

-Former DU defenseman Dakota Mermis, who played most of last year as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), signed a one-year NHL deal with the New Jersey Devils. He played one game in the NHL last season with Arizona.

-Former DU defenseman Josiah Didier, who helped lead the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL to a Calder Cup Championship last year, signed a one year AHL contract with the Providence (R.I) Bruins.

-Additionally, former DU defenseman Blake Hillman, who played all year in Rockford (AHL), became an unrestricted free agent when the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to re-sign him. We’ll be watching to see if Hillman can find a new team this summer.

Three restaurants defy turbulent University Park changes

With all the changes taking place in the University Park neighborhood, on and off campus, we wanted to feature three long-standing restaurants that have survived the test of time. Two did it by hardly changing a thing. The other did it by changing to meet changing consumer tastes. The others? Well, they’re gone.

The retail restaurant business is already difficult enough without being near a college, in this case the University of Denver. With clientele turning over every four years and the bulk of classes on campus for only 30 out of 52 weeks, you have to be creative – and/or provide a rock solid offer. But, Mustard’s Last Stand, Jerusalem Restaurant and Spanky’s Roadhouse got there following different paths. Continue reading Three restaurants defy turbulent University Park changes

Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: WCHA Upheaval Was Predictable and Money-Driven

While some people were taken by surprise by last Friday’s announcement that seven WCHA schools’ intentions to pull out of the conference to form a more “regionally aligned” conference in 2021-22, it should not be all that surprising given huge influence of money and how it underpins most decisions in college sports. 

On the surface of it, the expensive and time-consuming league trips to regional outliers in Alaska (to play Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks ) and Alabama-Huntsville are unappealing to most WCHA schools. These schools’ desire to form a more regional ‘bus league” to save money is a huge driver in the decision, especially as WCHA schools are smaller-budget institutions without many sources of revenue beyond the tickets they can sell. The reality is that the WCHA is a third-tier league today in terms of hockey budgets.   

Those money interests have become more acute recently, as both the University of Alaska-Anchorage and University of Alaska-Fairbanks programs had moved onto their own very shaky financial ground of late— the latest news coming this week as Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed over $400 million from the state’s proposed budget, including over $100 million ear-marked for the state university systems.  This move may financially eliminate all athletics at both schools. Both UAA and UAF were already in the process of moving their hockey team’s game night facilities to their smaller, sub-2,000 seat on-campus practice facilities to spend less money, away from the larger city-owned facilities that each school has played in for many years.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville (coached by former DU player Mike Corbett) is in a bit better shape than UAA or UAF, committing recently to building a new on-campus arena.  But UAH does not subsidize opponent air travel to Alabama as the Alaska schools must to Alaska, and UAH has also had financial concerns in program support in recent years.

Don’t be surprised if the WCHA looks to the AHA to replace the Alaska schools and UAH with more “buss-able” replacements in Pennsylvania, such as Mercyhurst and Robert Morris to backfill the league.

Moreover, there is plenty of historical precedent for this kind of financially-motivated decision in the WCHA.

First, the recent formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) that helped break up the WCHA in 2012-2013, led largely by DU and North Dakota, was not only a necessary competitive response to the formation of Big 10 hockey conference (which resulted in the WCHA losing Wisconsin and Minnesota), but an acknowledgement of different financial support philosophies for college hockey.

DU and UND did not like the cost-containment, low-investment mentality of some of the remaining WCHA schools at that time. Moreover, DU and North Dakota did not like being outvoted by these slow-growth, small-market WCHA members who not only would not invest in the future of the league, but who also propped up then-commissioner Bruce MacLeod’s slower, low-investment leadership style with a secret contract extension.  If you remember, the key phrase of the NCHC when it was formed, it was “like-minded schools.”  Given the cost-containment mentality in the WCHA, it is not surprising that schools that cost too much would be eventually pushed out.

Indeed, the entire organizational membership history of the WCHA since its formation in 1960 has been based on defensive reaction to circumstances rather than some grand western strategy to dominate college hockey.

In 1960, the WCHA was formed as a reaction to the predecessor league (WIHL)’s collapse in 1959 over different recruiting practices and a lack of league playoff system.

In 1981, the WCHA almost imploded again when Michigan’s then-athletic director, Don Canham, led a mass defection with Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame leaving the WCHA to join the what was then the CCHA as ‘bus league” to avoid air travel to Colorado to play DU and CC, leaving only six WCHA members.  While Michigan Tech eventually came back to the WCHA in 1983, the other schools never did. By the way, Michigan has never played DU in regular season play since 1980-81, the last season Michigan was in the WCHA.

In other words, follow the money.

Puck Swami is the internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.

Seven WCHA Members Rock College Hockey with Exit Announcement

From Hops to Hookah – University Park going up in a puff of smoke

We recently reported about the closing of Fermaentra, a craft brewery located at 1715 East Evans Avenue – just west of the DU campus. At the time, it was thought that another microbrewery would occupy the space and replace the University of Denver’s only walkable microbrewery.

The cost of rent was cited by Westword as the cause for the closing of Fermaentra and a new brewpub was expected to come in its place. To our surprise, several days ago the building was transformed into the Art Hookah Lounge. Still, it is hard for many to believe that the new Art Hookah Lounge will generate much more traffic and business than its predecessor – but we could be wrong. Continue reading From Hops to Hookah – University Park going up in a puff of smoke

Why Baseball and Augustana College Drove UMKC’s Summit League Return

Why did the Summit League add UMKC and why now?

The addition of UMKC takes the number of schools in the Summit League to 10 – an ideal number for scheduling, travel partners and stability.

But not so fast.

It has been known for quite some time that current Summit member Fort Wayne has been expected to leave the conference for a more geographically convenient landing spot, like the Horizon Conference – even Summit League commissioner Tom Douple has admitted so. And, it seems Western Illinois is always balancing precariously on the financial ropes. But interestingly, the biggest concern of many Summit League members is the future of baseball. With only six teams, the Summit barely meets the NCAA minimum for an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament. The loss of either the Mastodons or Leathernecks would likely be fatal to baseball – especially to Summit League members on the southern flank. Continue reading Why Baseball and Augustana College Drove UMKC’s Summit League Return

Final Phase I Project of the Denver Advantage underway with Leo Block Demolition

After a late start, The Burwell Center for Career Achievement is finally under construction after overcoming several zoning technicalities. The new facility will house Career Services, act as a resource for corporate relations and engagement and provide as a gathering place for alumni and alumni relations. The new facility is being built at the intersection of Asbury Avenue and South Gaylord Street, replacing the former Leo Block Alumni Center.

Burwell Center

Photo: The Burwell Center for Career Achievement will cover 23,000 square feet and meet energy requirements to achieve LEED Platinum designation. In addition to interview spaces and offices, the building will have a guest patio and living room for visitors to the DU campus. Continue reading Final Phase I Project of the Denver Advantage underway with Leo Block Demolition

Rapid Reaction: UMKC Returning to Summit League

According to a report from the Washington Post, the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) is leaving the Western Athletic Conference and returning to the Summit League for the 2020-2021 season. The addition of UMKC will bring conference membership to ten schools. The move makes it unclear what will happen with Augustana College – a school considered to be a shoo-in for the Summit League’s tenth opening when they transition to Division I play.

Interestingly, reports cited an ‘invitation’ which was extended by the Summit League to UMKC. According to the Washington Post, “We’re thankful to the WAC and their commitment to Division I excellence. We accepted the invitation to return to the Summit League because, after careful review, we believe it will help us achieve our goals,” UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said in a statement. Continue reading Rapid Reaction: UMKC Returning to Summit League

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