Puck Swami: A Magic Night at Barton Stadium

Photos by John Baker for Inside Lacrosse Magazine

Last night was one of those magic nights as a DU fan, when everything came together create a perfect scene at Peter Barton Stadium on the DU campus.  The #1 ranked Pioneers, of course,  did their part with a 17-8 dismemberment of Providence College in the Big East semi-final.

But there was more than a game at Barton last night.

It was an event – one of the very best atmospheres in all of college lacrosse.

Nearly 2,500 fans overflowed the stadium seats, the 30th Barton Stadium sellout, on a weeknight where the weather finally cooperated with clear, 72-degree weather, even well after the sun had faded down below the Rocky Mountains.  DU had played most of its home games (and a number of away games, too) in bad weather this year, and it was wonderful to not be sitting in wet puddles and wind, shivering in the snow. Like a spring flower waiting to open, Peter Barton simply welcomed everyone.

DU Student turnout was superb. They flowed into the North end of campus in pre-game waves when some game tickets (paid for by DU) were given away free to the first 200 students. The DU Grilling Society was mobbed as hundreds more DU students gathered to enjoy free grilled foods.

I saw students in school colors representing virtually every sports team at DU, every Greek house, and many other student groups. They came coming together to create more unity than any other activity on campus. More importantly, most of them weren’t just there to drink – hundreds of them found their way into the stadium for the game itself, creating the best student section in the sport.

But that wasn’t all.

DU rolled out the red carpet for not only its community but the national TV audience on CBS Sports Network. DU’s 1940s and 1950’s football alumni held a reunion on the tower deck overlooking the lacrosse stadium while the Pioneer pep band belted out the DU fight song from under the golden Williams Tower. I am sure the sound of that fight song must have warmed the hearts of those hearty old men who bled for the school 60 years ago when DU’s Hilltop Stadium once filled that same space. The band elevates the DU/collegiate atmosphere whenever they play at DU games, and it’s always a pleasure to see them at lacrosse games.

The DU cheerleaders provided Division I color and life to the scene by handing out DU swag to early arrivals and making their presence felt in Crimson and Gold.

DU also invited Native American dancers to entertain at halftime, and while Jojo the War Drummer from the Denver Outlaws Pro Lacrosse team is a fixture at all DU home games, the extra drummers and costumed dancers reminded everyone that the lacrosse is a gift from the Native people to the rest of us. And when the Native American dancers were done, several flocked over to Denver Boone for happy and inclusive photos.

It wasn’t just DU fans noticing how great the night was, either. Fans from all four schools (Villanova and Marquette had played earlier in the other semi-final)  stuck around for the second game, even when their teams weren’t playing.

One Villanova fan turned to me, somewhat wide-eyed when the DU Dance Team took the field for its halftime routine. “I’ve been going to [Villanova home] lacrosse games for years, and it’s mostly drizzle and turtlenecks for us. We don’t see any sequins,” he said, referring to the DU dance team’s sparkly uniforms. “You guys [Denver] seem to have so much more fun.”

Providence Coach Chris Gabrielli summed it up well when he commented on the outstanding atmosphere as his opening statement at the post-game press conference:

“We would love to thank the University of Denver for being tremendous hosts,” he said. “This was an incredible experience for us. There was great weather, a fantastic venue, and an incredible crowd. This was really a dream come true for players and coaches to play in such an atmosphere. Thanks to the Big East and Denver again for putting on such a great show.”

While we are sometimes critical of our DU game nights and sports atmosphere, it’s important to celebrate when we get it right.

At DU, we do lacrosse right, on the field and off.

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a longtime DU fan and alumnus.