Puck Swami’s Guide to 2018-2019 DU Sports Fan Road Trips

Traveling to watch Pioneer Sports is one of the great joys of life.  Photo: Aviation Stackexchange

While not all of DU’s teams have announced their 2018-2019 schedules yet, we know just enough to start planning potential road trips to see our beloved Pioneers play in some of America’s most iconic destinations. If you’ve never travelled to see the Pioneers play, you are missing out on some amazing experiences.  There is a special “us against the world” feeling that comes from watching DU on the road as Pio fan, and when the team gets a road win, it can feel even more special than a home win, because the team just needs you more on the road. Here are some possibilities to help get you started, with DU men’s  hockey, basketball, soccer and lacrosse road trips, in alphabetical order by area:

Boston: DU hockey plays a late December weekend at Merrimack College (in North Andover) and University of Massachusetts-Lowell (in Lowell) both of which are within 45 minutes of Boston, Mass. Boston is always a great destination for sports fans and history buffs, and the New England accents add a touch of hilarity to the experience. Two different opponents make this late December trip even more interesting, especially in the holiday season. While not as glamorous as past DU trips to more well-known campuses which sit on the Boston “T” lines, such as BC, BU or Northeastern, this trip offers the Boston-area experience in some new venues, at least for Pioneer fans. Merrimack is a small college hockey experience, with a smaller rink and up-close perspective, while Mass-Lowell has a nice 1990s arena in an old New England textile mill town that had its best days before the Civil War.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: With at least three DU Hockey games in Colorado Springs this season at both Air Force and Colorado College, local Denver fans have some short-distance chances to see the Pioneers play on the road. Each place is a different experience. Air Force games are fun and intimate, with the small arena on the gorgeous AFA campus. And since you pay for all of it with your tax dollars, it’s hard to hate the Zoomies very much, especially with the funniest coach in college hockey, Frank Serratore, who once coached DU back in the day.  Against rival CC, a personal visit to disparage CC’s huge collection of participation banners at World Arena is always “de rigueur”. The quick-skating Pioneers love the international size ice at CC, too, and fans shouldn’t miss a post-game ‘yard’ of ale at the Golden Bee nearby. These trips both give you the DU road experience, with the bonus of getting to sleep in your own bed. Or, you can make it an overnight splurge with a stay at the Broadmoor Hotel, which is amazing any time of year.

Grand Forks, North Dakota:  Ah, Grand Forks. The road trip of all college hockey road trips to the University of North Dakota. If Grand Forks is not the end of the world, you can certainly see it from there. Watching DU play hockey in this frigid town against a hated rival is something not even 1% of DU fans have ever done nor ever will do, due to the remoteness and hassle factor of the destination, and the hellacious winter weather one is likely to experience once there. Then there are all those green-clad UND fans to endure. If you think the 2,000 Denver-based UND fans are obnoxious when they show up to Denver’s Magness arena when UND plays at DU, just imagine sitting among 12,000 of them stuffed into their own home arena! That said, if you are curious/brave/unique/crazy enough to go there, you will have a memory and a story that will be lifelong. The arena is over-the-top opulent. The NoDak fans are more knowledgeable than you are, and they also happen to be the most passionate in the West due, in part, to the utter lack of anything else to do during a Grand Forks winter, other than grab a good sandwich at the Red Pepper and binge drink a lot of alcohol (North Dakota leads the country in per capita alcohol consumption). Just surviving the whole ordeal will make you legendary. But don’t try to tell them their official state tree is the telephone pole. They’ve heard that one before…

Madison, Wisconsin: Speaking of binge drinking, DU hockey plays a series just after New Years at DU’s former league-mate, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the great college towns in the USA, especially for those who enjoy Big 10-scale sports and big college town nightlife. If you’ve never been to Madison, you should go. The 15,000 seat Kohl Center is cavernous arena, and the choreography in the 2,000-seat UW student section can be epic, as is the State Street area college bar scene. This is a must do, especially if you are a connoisseur of sticky floors and cheap drinks. Don’t miss the “KK” (Kollege Klub, since 1953) or the Nitty Gritty (especially if it’s your Birthday, for free beer) if you miss that undergrad drinking experience, albeit with Big 10 scenery in all of its plumage. With the State Street area leading the way, it’s no wonder the State of Wisconsin is second in the the country in per capita alcohol consumption, right behind North Dakota.

Minnesota: We may joke about the passive/aggressive nature of “Minnesota Nice” but there is always something special about seeing hockey played in the “State of Hockey”. Yes their winter sucks, but the fans are knowledgeable and bonkers about hockey. Of course, the best place to experience that Minnesota hockey atmosphere is at the NCHC tournament in St. Paul, which can be a blast when (and if) DU advances to that mid-March weekend. That said, DU hockey is guaranteed to play two other weekends in the Land of 10,000 Lakes this season, with an away series at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, (a 1-hour drive from the Twin Cities) and at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (a 2.5-hour drive from the Twin Cities).  I’ve always enjoyed the Duluth trip a bit more than the St. Cloud trip, as Duluth is a somewhat scenic, port city on Lake Superior with lively Grandma’s bar and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame nearby in Eveleth, Minn. Meanwhile, a St. Cloud trip feels a bit more generic — picture an average midwestern, landlocked state college town, with solid ’50s style hamburgers at locally-legendary Val’s Rapid Serv, if you can get there before 7 pm when it closes. 

New York City: Sure the people are often rude, the trip is expensive and the weather can be iffy, but New York is one of the world’s great destinations. The Pioneers men’s lacrosse team will be playing twice within an easy train ride of the Big Apple this year, by playing at St. John’s University (Date TBA, in the Borough of Queens) and Princeton University (March 26th in Princeton, N.J.). If you haven’t seen Pioneer lacrosse in the East before, you’re missing out on a built-in DU cheering section, as all those East Coast DU parents (and their associated family and friends) almost always provide at least 50-100 DU fans at DU road games and will welcome you to their pre-game spreads if you are wearing Crimson and Gold. Queens is known for amazing ethnic foods from all over the world, and Princeton is one of America’s iconic campuses and upscale college towns where you can gawk at Einstein’s old house and Hobey Baker’s old skates, depending on what floats your boat. Just bring your credit card.

Seattle: DU Hoops plays in a three-game tournament in Seattle this year after Thanksgiving, and while most of your time will be spent avoiding steady raindrops if you go, Seattle has much to offer visitors in terms of scenery, markets, museums and laid-back urban hipster atmosphere. While the basketball atmosphere at University of Seattle games may not be overly amazing, (especially when DU faces the non-host teams, Longwood University and Fairfield University) at least the city can be. The tourney this year is on campus at Redhawks Center, Seattle’s small, old 1,000-seat bandbox gym while SU’s normal large venue, the Key Bank Center arena, undergoes needed renovations.

Southern California: Despite fires, mudslides, earthquakes and the occasional riot, So Cal is always a fun trip. Fancy some warmer-weather Pioneer action in the O.C. where you aren’t very far from Disneyland and other Los Angeles area attractions?  There are a couple of chances to see the Pioneers play in Orange County this year. First, DU men’s hoops plays University of California-Irvine in Irvine, on December 15th. There is also Pioneer men’s lacrosse taking on hated rival University of Notre Dame in the neutral-field annual Pacific Shootout at Orange Coast College Stadium on March 9 in Costa Mesa, Calif.  Or if the Pioneer Men’s Soccer team is good enough to return to the College Cup in December of 2018, Santa Barbara is a fantastic destination, too.

Hope to see you on the road….and Go Pios.

Puck Swami is the Internet Moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDu, and he always drinks responsibly now that he’s old…