The DU hockey world is in near perfect alignment. DU, under head coach Jim Montgomery, is poised for another strong season following its first trip to the Frozen Four in over a decade. The athletic department is coming off its 8th Directors Cup in nine years. And former Denver head coach George Gwozdecky is still doing what he loves to do, according to a recent article – mentoring young hockey players at Valor Christian High School.
Gwozdecky still maintains connections with DU. His daughter went to DU and he has been spotted occasionally on campus and he attends off campus hockey related events. He was seen at a Battle on Blake celebration event and was a prominent guest at the Greg ‘Woody’ Woods memorial at the Campus Lounge. Woods played well before the Gwozdecky era but Gwoz has a deep respect for DU’s hockey tradition and community.
The April Fools day firing of Gwozdecky in 2013 is now a distant memory. All the parties to the event have moved forward with great success and head coach Jim Montgomery has become a popular on-campus figure. Oh and he also received a contract extension this summer. LetsGoDU has written extensively about Coach Montgomery and how well he fits at DU.
Still, it feels like something is missing.
The reason(s) for Gwozdecky’s hasty exit, are only known by the parties involved. However, it’s a well-known fact that with the help and support of Dan Ritchie, Gwozdecky took a struggling program with a proud history and rebuilt it into the national powerhouse it was always meant to be. He took a risk coming to DU but it paid off as he racked up an incredible 443-267-64 record in his 19 years leading the Crimson and Gold. He stood toe to toe with the top programs in the nation and became the most hated college coach in North Dakota. He rattled off 12 straight 20-win seasons (it’s now 15) – the most of any program in college hockey and won back-to-back national championships.
The unforgettable image of Gwozdecky’s last day leading this program should not be how Pioneers remember one of the greatest coaches college hockey has seen.
A bronze statue of Murray Armstrong, DU’s legendary hockey coach who led the Pioneers to 5 national titles, stands near the wall of fame on the concourse outside Magness Arena. The time has come for Gwozdecky to join him. Gwoz is a Pioneer icon that deserves to be permanently recognized as part of DU’s proud tradition. While DU continues to fill the rafters with championship banners in skiing, lacrosse, and hockey – there is still room to give Gwozdecky and his family a worthy thank-you.
Plenty of time has passed. The wounds have healed. The time has come to formally recognize one of the greatest Pioneer coaches of all time. And maybe schedule it for the return of North Dakota to Denver in 2017?