Minnesota’s Lucia followed similar path, met same fate as George Gwozdecky

As bonin21 said on The Gopher Forum, “Two national championships, four WCHA regular season championships, three WCHA Final Five championships, four Big Ten regular season championships and one Big Ten playoff championship. It was a good run.”

But not good enough.

After 19 years at the helm of the Golden Gophers, Don Lucia is out.

Lucia’s run is similar to that of former DU bench boss George Gwozdecky who steered the University of Denver program for 19 years. He won back-to-back national championships in 2004 & 2005 en route to a sterling 443-267-64 record. Gwozdecky led the Pioneers to 12 straight 20+ win seasons (the ‘Tenzer Streak’ now sits at 17) and five consecutive NCAA appearances when his contract was not renewed by the Pioneers. Lucia had 457 wins and his own streak of six consecutive seasons with 20+ wins came to an end this year. He also led the Gophers to five out of the past six NCAA Tournaments.

The noise surrounding Lucia’s inability to make a postseason run, Minnesota recruiting woes, and falling attendance all played a role in his dismissal. And, no doubt, the rapid emergence of Penn State frustrated the tradition-rich Minnesota program. Finally, the addition of a strong Notre Dame program to the B1G shook Gopher fans as the Irish captured both the regular season and conference titles.

Unlike Lucia’s dismissal, George Gwozdecky’s ‘non-renewal’ came as a shock to many DU fans who were frustrated with early NCAA playoff exits but pleased with Gwozdecky’s overall results. Lucia still had one year left on his Minnesota contract.

There is an excellent article by Minnesota Public Radio which details the falling fortunes of Gopher Nation. First-year Northern Michigan head coach Grant Potulny, a former Gopher Assistant coach, is an early fan favorite to replace Lucia. Potulny spent eight seasons at Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers capture six regular-season conference titles and qualify for five NCAA tournaments. But there are certain to be a number of coaching candidates who will be lining up for the job.

7 thoughts on “Minnesota’s Lucia followed similar path, met same fate as George Gwozdecky”

  1. OK, a legend was dismissed. I hate to see that, but it’s the nature of the profession. Some say UM should be able to seriously contend for a NC almost every year if not every year. (that’s pretty lofty expectations and certainly puts coach in a pressure cooker every year) These UM fans know Minnesota has the best HS hockey in the country. Fertile recruiting area for sure. So if Lucia was not landing enough top talent, it’s on him. If he was landing the top players, it’s still on him. You gotta coach kids so they get the most out of their abilities. Maybe time for a change after 19 years. Lucia is good for college hockey and I wish him the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very similar paths, but Gwoz’ achievements were a bit more difficult, considering Denver does not have the large local talent pool and state flagship school advantages, including the cheaper in-state tuition and scholarship splitting capabilities that the Gophers have.

    I think after DU and UM won a couple of NCAA titles in the early years of the last decade, there was a sense of complacency and entitlement that settled in… At DU under Gwoz and at UM under Lucia, top recruits enrolled with agents in tow, aggressive parents and NHL teams demanding first line and power-play guarantees, which ended up pissing off the existing players who had earned those places through their play. Ultimately, those DU and UM teams lost in the NCAAs, and sometimes didn’t make it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The last 5 years have seen some significant names in coaching move on not always by choice.
    George Gwozdecky (2) 2013
    Scott Owens (0) 2014
    Dave Hakstol (0) 2015 to NHL
    Mike Eaves (1) 2016
    Dean Blais (2 at UND) 2017
    Red Berenson (2) 2017
    Don Lucia (2) 2018



  4. I think the tide turned negative on Gwoz. with that humiliating playoff loss to R.I.T in Albany. That loss still gnaws at me. Our guys clearly had their heads somewhere else. I said at that time that Gwoz.was starting to lose his players.
    From then it just incrementally got worse until Peg had enough.


  5. There was a time when winning a National Championship meant lifetime employment. Clearly those days are over.

    Gopher alums & especially former players had been after Lucia scalp for years. Now comes the hard part; following a legend.

    If Lucia had stayed at CC they might have won several Nattys at DU’s expense. Alas, Fifty-Seven lives on…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The demise of the Rodents couldn’t happen to a nicer program. Their harping about DU’s Canadian roster decades ago resulted in DU going to the NCAA doghouse. Their high-handed Minnesota-only policy on recruits eventually showed the emperor had no clothes. And now they fire the head coach who had arguably the worst haircut in college sports for many years. What will I have left to gripe about?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember it well…. When Minnesota refused to play DU because of the Canadian players. It may take a while, but thanks to being in the hotbed of hockey, the Gophers will be back.

    Liked by 1 person

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