Former DU Pioneers Help Power Avalanche to NHL’s Stanley Cup Championship

Logan O’Connor became the latest Denver Pioneer to become a Stanley Cup Champion: Photo: Sportsnet Canada

The Colorado Avalanche’s third Stanley Cup Championship was won in Tampa, Florida with a 2-1 victory in Game Six over the Tampa Bay Lightning, making Denver into the new “Hockeytown USA”, as the Avalanche joined the 2022 NCAA Champion University of Denver and USA’s Hockey High School Division II National Champion Denver East High School for a troika of Denver hockey titles in 2022.

The Avalanche victory was helped along by former DU Captain and 2017 NCAA Champion Logan O’Connor, who won his first Stanley Cup Championship as a winger on the Avalanche.  According to College Hockey History Twitter, O’Connor is believed to be the first NCAA Champion and Stanley Cup Champion to play for teams in the same city (Denver).  O’Connor is now the second Pioneer to win both NCAA and Stanley Cup trophies. John MacMillan, who won two NCAA titles with DU in 1958 and 1960, as well as two Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1962 and 1963, was the first.

O’Connor also joined a select group of other fellow DU Pioneers (besides MacMillan) who have also won the vaunted trophy as NHL players, coaches or management.

Pioneers Tyler Bozak and Chris Butler won Stanley Cups with the St. Louis Blues as players in 2019, along with former 1970s Pio d-man Bruce Affleck, an EVP of the Blues.

DU forward and Hockey Hall-of -Famer Glenn Anderson, who played for DU in 1979-80, is the most decorated DU Stanley Cup winner, winning six Stanley Cups in his career, mostly with the Edmonton Oiler dynasty of the 1980s.  Former DU captain and two-time NCAA Champion (’68-’69) Craig Patrick won two Stanley Cups as the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, while DU Pioneer forward Beau Bennett won a Stanley Cup in 2016 playing with the Penguins.

Kevin Dineen, who captained the Pioneers in 1982-83, was an assistant coach on the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, while Dineen’s brother Shawn, who played at DU just before Kevin, owns a 1996 Stanley Cup ring with the Colorado Avalanche as a scout. Former DU player and head coach Marshall Johnston got his name on the Stanley Cup as part of the front office with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

Other former DU coaches who also won Stanley Cups include the late Ralph Backstrom (who won six Stanley Cups as a player with the Montreal Canadiens in the ’50s and ’60s) and Derek Lalonde, a former DU assistant coach who won two Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 as an assistant coach with Tampa Bay.

Other former DU hockey players working with the current Avalanche NHL Champions include broadcasters Peter McNab, and Mark Rycroft, as well as Altitude TV producer Doug Menzies.  Former DU PA announcer Conor McGahey is also an Avs broadcaster, while Avs VP Of Hockey Administration Charlotte Grahame gets her name on her third Stanley Cup with the Avs, and is the wife of former Pio legend Ron Grahame, who played, coached and administrated with DU for nearly 50 years until retiring in 2019. Charlotte is also the mother of former Pioneer player Jason Grahame, and Stanley Cup-winning goalie John Grahame. Former DU Volunteer Coach Steven Reinprecht is the Avalanche’s Development Coach, and last but certainly not least is Avalanche Writer & Digital Content provider Sasha Kandrach, a DU and ⁦LetsGoDU alum –  we are so immensely proud of everything she’s done since her time at DU and with us and we’re so happy for her tonight!!

11 thoughts on “Former DU Pioneers Help Power Avalanche to NHL’s Stanley Cup Championship”

    1. If the list is weak, that just shows you how hard it is not only for a player to make it to the NHL, but to be on a cup-winning team.

  1. I want to know if any other city (or state) has won NCAA and NHL titles in the same year. Can you statistics wizards dig that up? Pretty awesome Hockey Town achievement for Denver!!

    1. Two cities have completed this feat.
      1. Boston – 1972. Bruins and Boston University Terriers in Boston.
      2. Detroit – 1955. Red Wings and UM beat CC in the Springs.

    1. By modern standards, yes – The nine county area designated by the OMB as the Detroit–Warren–Ann Arbor Combined Statistical Area (CSA) includes the Detroit–Warren–Dearborn MSA and the three additional counties of Genesee, Monroe, and Washtenaw (which include the metropolitan areas of Flint, Monroe, and Ann Arbor, respectively). In the 1950s, though, there was probably some more countryside in the hour drive between the two cities.

      Interestingly, in the ’50s, the Red Wings would play the University of Michigan annually in a pre-season tuneup game. Given that Michigan had won six of its nine NCAA titles in the 1950s, those games were quite often very competitive games between the UM college kids and the Wings.

      1. Haha Puck. I can’t believe you looked up 50’s Wings/Mich games to check their competitiveness. I think your making it up. If you did look it up, I recommend you take up golf.

  2. Congrats to O’Connor, it was great to have a DU rep on the Avs team. But is anyone else embarrassed, or at least surprised, that DU has had only 2 NCAA & NHL champions? Considering DU is the best program in NCAA hockey history, I would have guessed 7. I blame Bozak, and his DU team’s flameout from the NCAA tournament. Kidding, Bozak rocks.

    1. Three reasons for the small number of Pioneer NCAA/Stanley Cup Champions:

      1) Talent/Hard to do – As someone pointed out above, it’s very hard to make the NHL. There have been about 80 Pios to make it the NHL in 72 years of DU hockey, and most of them were only there for a short time, and most of them could not choose their NHL team when they got there. This is true for all college programs. In terms of talent, DU has had only four first round NHL draft picks in its entire year program history since 1969 when the league starting drafting players. Michigan had seven on last year’s team alone.

      2) BAD TIMING: DU’s first 1960s ‘golden age’ of NCAA titles coincided with a period of NHL snobbery – DU won more than half of its NCAA titles (5) before 1969 in a period when college players were relative rarities in the NHL. Before the 1970s, NHL GMs were all Canadian back then and many of them looked down on US college players. When the USA beat the USSR and won gold in the 1980 Olympics, NHL opinions on college players began to change and more of them flowed into the NHL, but DU wasn’t able to take advantage of it for the most part, due to reason 3…

      3) Two Major Fallow Pioneer Periods – DU won zero NCAA titles for 35 years between 1969 and 2004. That’s a couple of generations of DU players who never had a chance to do the ‘double’. The many very good Pio teams of the ’70s all failed to win the big one, and in the 80s and 90s, DU’s talent level dropped for the most part (since DU the program mostly regressed mostly into mediocrity) and was rarely a threat to win it for many of those years before the 2000s rolled along. And honestly, between 2006-2017, DU had much more NHL level talent but mostly underachieved in the NCAA tourney. Many of those Gwoz era DU teams were good enough to win an NCAA title, but just didn’t. So even when the NCAA spigot of NHL talent began to increase, DU was not supplying NCAA Champion players to the league…

  3. Those under achieving Gwoz teams cost him his job. Particularly that upstate New York playoff loss No excuse for that one .My guess is that’s when Peg turned the corner on gwoz.

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