The Denver Pioneers lost one of its hockey greats this weekend, as former DU all-American and DU Hall of Famer George Konik passed away in his sleep at his home in Eagan, Minn. on Oct. 21. He had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and dementia for the last 17 years, and was 79 years old.
A native of Flin Flon, Manitoba, George helped the Flin Flon Bombers junior hockey team with 76 points in 53 games to win the 1957 Memorial Cup Championship. He reportedly turned down a two-year NHL contract with the New York Rangers in order to accept a scholarship to the University of Denver in the fall of 1957, but he didn’t see any action his freshman year at DU, since freshmen were not eligible to play varsity hockey at that time. He did learn a great deal watching his DU teammates win the 1958 NCAA championship over North Dakota, the school’s first of seven NCAA Crowns.
The next season, Konik, a 5-11, 190 lb. versatile player who could play forward and defense would earn a regular spot on the DU team. He helped lead the Pioneers to two more NCAA titles in 1960 and 1961, DU teams that were generally regarded as some of the finest college hockey teams of all-time. Konik was named to the WCHA second all-star team in 1960 and the first team all- WCHA in 1961, the NCAA championship all-tournament team in 1960 and the NCAA West All-American team in 1960.
Konik racked up 116 points (46G-70A) in 89 career games as a Pioneer, ranking sixth in program history in points by a defenseman. He was also named to the WCHA 50th Anniversary Team in 2001 and was inducted into the DU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
After DU, He signed with the New York Rangers but toiled in the minors (AHL, WHL and CPHL) from 1961-67. He finally made his NHL debut in 1967-68 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ inaugural expansion team, where he played 52 NHL games that season, scoring seven goals and adding eight assists for 15 points before returning to the minors for the rest of his hockey career.
Konik eventually became a naturalized American citizen and joined the United States national team for the 1970 and 1971 IIHF World Championships; and he was named the IIHF’s “B” pool tournament’s best defenseman in 1970 before retiring from hockey. Konik came out of retirement in 1972-73 to play a final season of major league pro hockey for the WHA’s Minnesota Fighting Saints.
After retiring from pro hockey for the second time, he worked as an electrical engineer at Honeywell Corporation before founding George Konik Associates, a contract engineering firm in Minnesota. In 2000, George sold the company to his son, Brad, who had also played college (Harvard, where he was the Crimson’s 100th captain) and minor league hockey. Brad is still president of GKA today.
George loved coaching hockey, golf and enjoying life with his family and friends. He leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Ila Konik; his children, Terri Churchill (Joe), Brenda Konik, Jodi Schoenecker (Brad), Brad Konik (Erin); his grandchildren, Sydney, Anna, Rachel, Trevor, Lauren, Kaia, Benjamin, Andrea and Hayden; niece, Donna (Garry), nephew, Ron (Deb); other relatives and many close friends. A visitation and Celebration of Life Service will be held Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 at Knights of Columbus, 1114 American Blvd W. in Bloomington, Minnesota. Visitation starting at 10 AM with Service at 12 Noon and reception afterwards.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the University of Denver Hockey Program.