DU Hockey Mailbag: Another Bye Week

Photo Credit: The University of Denver

Well we’ve made it to week 3 of our weekly DU Hockey mailbags and I’m getting some really good questions from dedicated college hockey fans.

For the second time this season, DU has a bye week heading into a series with North Dakota. Last time, DU was outscored 9-1 in Grand Forks over the course of the weekend before coming home to got dominated again by St. Cloud State. Needless to say, the bye week has not exactly been kind to the Pios this year. We’ll see how this bye week is handled by Coach Montgomery and his staff, but you can be sure it will be different this time around.

Last weekend, Denver traveled to Oxford, Ohio to take on the Miami University RedHawks. They lost 3-1 on Friday and won 5-3 on Saturday. There was some bad and a lot of good over the weekend. For more details from the weekend, read the weekend recap.

Now, onto your questions:

DU has a bye week for the second time before playing North Dakota. Do you think this will help or hinder their chances next weekend?
Bill in Denver

Bill, I honestly have no idea what to expect at the moment. I’ve given it some thought, but it’s hard to say right now. This is the third bye week of the year for DU. We all know what happened after the 2nd one, but a lot of fans forgot that they had a bye before their unsuccessful trip to Boston (4-3 loss to BC and 5-4 OT loss to BU).

DU is 0-4 coming off a bye week in the 2015-16 season.  At some point that will become a trend. This will certainly be talked about over the next week, but I think the difference against the Sioux Fighting Hawks will be the preparation over these two weeks. Coach Montgomery explained to me earlier this year that the problem heading into Grand Forks was practice intensity. He said he started to shorten practice at that point (DU had only lost in regulation once to that point) and that in the end, that was a mistake. Monty said that as it turned out, it was too early to do that.

He responded by going back to the drawing board and made practices more intense again after the holiday break. The results have been terrific as the Pios have only lost once since New Year’s Day. The series with North Dakota will be the matchup of the week in the college hockey world.

Be sure to check in with LetsGoDU next week. We’ll be honing in on the matchup and all the little nuances involved with this rivalry. We have some really cool things planned.

Attendance at DU Hockey games has been…disappointing this year. Students have been reluctant to show up and the general crowd has been less than energized. What’s the deal? Do you think it will change over the next few weeks?
Jim in Lone Tree

Jim, you’re absolutely right. Attendance has been down across the board, not just this year, but in the past few years. I’m honestly not sure what the cause really is. I have speculated on a few things, but it’s certainly baffling as the product on the ice has been consistently good. After all, DU is the only NCAA DI team to win 20+ games in each of its last 14 seasons.

The only real change in the last 5 or so years was the head coach…you know, the whole Gwozdecky firing. I remember seeing and hearing about a severe drop in season ticket sales after that happened, which I understood. Monty wasn’t exactly a blockbuster hire as he had only coached the Dubuque Fighting Saints for a few years. He was an assistant coach with Notre Dame and RPI for a number of years, but his coaching experience was limited.

When a program fires one of the greatest college hockey coaches of all time to bring a guy with limited experience, people aren’t going to be happy. Heck, I remember thinking, “What the hell is DU thinking?!” when I found out Gwoz was fired.

All Monty did after he was hired was win the NCHC Tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in his first year with a somewhat thin roster (a number of players left for professional hockey after Gwoz’s departure). Shouldn’t that and last year’s run to the NCAA quarterfinals have brought the fans back to Magness? Well apparently not.

Denver is a saturated sports market, sure, but DU hockey has traditionally been a staple of that market, not a fringe attraction. DU hasn’t been to the Frozen Four since 2005, so maybe that has played into Denver’s apathy.

Regardless, the crowds at DU hockey games this year have been really disappointing. Of course, next weekend will be loud and likely sold out, but at last 1/3 of the crowd will be wearing green and rooting for the visitors.

I have a feeling that the Battle on Blake will boost attendance for a sustained amount of time. I’ve seen reports that up to 30,000 tickets to the Gold Pan Rivalry game at Coors Field in two weeks have been sold. Sure, CC fans will travel, but a major contingent of the crowd will be either DU fans or just Denver-based hockey fans.

I will be watching the DU hockey attendance numbers very closely for the rest of this season and through the next few years. This is something the Athletic Department has been watching and trying to solve for a few years now. Hopefully, attendance picks up and DU hockey becomes a staple of the Denver sports market again.

Ordinarily, I’d add another question here, but I spent so much space on the attendance question, that there is really no room anymore. Plus, it’s a bye week. I’ll add a 3rd or maybe 4th next week ahead of the DU-North Dakota series. I sense there will be a lot of inquiries about one of the bigger rivalries in college hockey.

Have a great bye week, everyone!

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