Most of you know by now that former Denver two-time all-American Hockey Captain Jim Wiste passed away this week from heart issues at the age of 71. Wiste, who co-captained the 1968 NCAA Champion Pioneers had a solid professional hockey career in the NHL and WHA after winning the NCAA title at DU. But he was perhaps best known around Denver as the owner of the venerable Campus Lounge, a Denver neighborhood tavern, for the 40 years between 1976 and 2016.
Wiste was part of the very first wave of college players to go from college hockey to NHL hockey in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the plucky center managed to save enough money from his hockey career to buy the Campus Lounge when his hockey playing days ended.
For me personally, Wiste was far more than just a hockey legend or a bar owner. He was a true host — a man who created the Campus Lounge in the spirit of a hockey tavern in a small Canadian town, much like the ones you’d find in his own hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Right from the start, the bar became a hockey hangout not only for DU players, but for NHL players and coaches as well. The Campus was Wiste — no frills, informal, down-to earth. It didn’t change much over the 40 years he owned it, and people liked it that way. Wiste didn’t change much, either — he was always warm and generous, but with a sense of calm consistency — classic Canadian!
Whether you wanted to talk hockey or anything else, he was always there. You could tell he was once a DU captain, because it was never about him, always about others. Like many Canadians I know, he knew when to talk, and more importantly, he knew when to listen. He cared about people, and people wanted to be around him. He loved his late 1960s Pioneer teammates — guys like Craig Patrick, Cliff Koroll and Keith Magnuson, the latter two of whom shared his Saskatchewan roots and also played NHL hockey with him as Chicago Blackhawks. But he loved Pioneers from other generations, too. In fact, Wiste was, in many ways, the bridge between generations of hockey Pioneers, and he will be profoundly missed.
If you want to learn more about him, here is link to a wonderful interview that Lets Go DU did with Wiste back in 2009 that captured much of the man’s essence. One of the best quotes from the interview encapsulates how he would define a DU hockey player. But if you knew him, you’d know the very same words could be used to describe Wiste himself.
“I would like to define him as dedicated, sincere, honest, hard working, and compatible with other people….So when you bump into a guy and if he’s a Pioneer, then he’s your friend. And if he needs help, you help him. If he needs some advice, then you give him some advice. And I think it’s sincere. So those are the things that you look upon as a Pioneer.”
The next time you are with your hockey friends, raise a glass to Jim. He would have liked that. For him, it was all about fellowship, bonding and team first. In these days when it seems our own Pioneer bonds are being tested, it’s a sad day that our Captain isn’t here anymore…
Memorial Services for Jim Wiste are scheduled for 5:30 PM Thursday, January 11th at Magness Arena, with a reception to follow in the Gold Club at 7:30pm.
Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time Denver Pioneer fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.