All posts by Puck Swami

Longtime University of Denver fan and alumnus.

Purdue-Fort Wayne Leaving Summit League in July, 2020

In a move that was long expected, Purdue University-Fort Wayne (branded as ‘Fort Wayne’) will leave the Summit League for the Horizon League in the midwest, in July of 2020. The Mastodons were the last team in the Summit League in the Eastern time zone. The move will leave the Summit with nine full members, including DU, once Missouri-Kansas City rejoins the league in July of 2020.

“Purdue Fort Wayne and [it’s] athletic administrators have been very upfront about exploring a possible transition to a conference more reflective of their geographic footprint,”  said Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple in a league statement. “This move did not catch anyone in our league off guard and Purdue Fort Wayne’s transparency throughout the process was appreciated…”We will continue the efforts to explore expansion and create new membership options, similar to the recent addition of the University of Missouri Kansas City. Membership changes cause short-term disappointment, but in the long term, our league and its members will continue to prosper and meet the challenges placed in front of them.” Continue reading Purdue-Fort Wayne Leaving Summit League in July, 2020

Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

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Chris Butler skates with the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2019 Champion St. Louis Blues/Photo: Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Chris Butler picked a glorious way to end his 11-year professional hockey career, going out as a Stanley Cup winner.

Wearing the uniform of his hometown team, the St. Louis Blues, the 32-year-old former Pioneer defenseman took his final skate on NHL ice on June 12th, holding aloft the Stanley Cup Trophy that he’d helped his Blues to win, appearing in 13 NHL games last season. Over his career, Butler had appeared in 407 NHL games with St. Louis, Calgary and Buffalo, with the rest of his career spent mostly in the AHL, as well as a short stint in Sweden in 2012-13. Over his NHL career, he’d scored 14 goals and picked-up 72 assists for 86 points. Continue reading Former Pioneer All-American Chris Butler retires as Stanley Cup champ

NHL Moving Day for Five Former Pioneer Hockey Players

Beau Bennett (Photo: St Louis Blues)

July 1  was moving day for several former DU Pioneer Hockey players, most of whom signed new contracts as the NHL free agent signing window opened on July 1.

-Former DU forward Beau Bennett, who played only 5 games last year in the KHL with Dynamo Minsk in Belarus, signed a one-year NHL contract with the Arizona Coyotes. He last played in the NHL with St. Louis.

-Former DU forward Nick Shore, who played last year in the KHL in Russia with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, signed a one-year NHL contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He last played in the NHL with Ottawa before signing in Russia last October.

-Former DU defenseman Dakota Mermis, who played most of last year as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), signed a one-year NHL deal with the New Jersey Devils. He played one game in the NHL last season with Arizona.

-Former DU defenseman Josiah Didier, who helped lead the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL to a Calder Cup Championship last year, signed a one year AHL contract with the Providence (R.I) Bruins.

-Additionally, former DU defenseman Blake Hillman, who played all year in Rockford (AHL), became an unrestricted free agent when the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to re-sign him. Hillman has since since signed with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) on July 26th.

Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: WCHA Upheaval Was Predictable and Money-Driven

While some people were taken by surprise by last Friday’s announcement that seven WCHA schools’ intentions to pull out of the conference to form a more “regionally aligned” conference in 2021-22, it should not be all that surprising given huge influence of money and how it underpins most decisions in college sports. 

On the surface of it, the expensive and time-consuming league trips to regional outliers in Alaska (to play Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks ) and Alabama-Huntsville are unappealing to most WCHA schools. These schools’ desire to form a more regional ‘bus league” to save money is a huge driver in the decision, especially as WCHA schools are smaller-budget institutions without many sources of revenue beyond the tickets they can sell. The reality is that the WCHA is a third-tier league today in terms of hockey budgets.   

Those money interests have become more acute recently, as both the University of Alaska-Anchorage and University of Alaska-Fairbanks programs had moved onto their own very shaky financial ground of late— the latest news coming this week as Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed over $400 million from the state’s proposed budget, including over $100 million ear-marked for the state university systems.  This move may financially eliminate all athletics at both schools. Both UAA and UAF were already in the process of moving their hockey team’s game night facilities to their smaller, sub-2,000 seat on-campus practice facilities to spend less money, away from the larger city-owned facilities that each school has played in for many years.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville (coached by former DU player Mike Corbett) is in a bit better shape than UAA or UAF, committing recently to building a new on-campus arena.  But UAH does not subsidize opponent air travel to Alabama as the Alaska schools must to Alaska, and UAH has also had financial concerns in program support in recent years.

Don’t be surprised if the WCHA looks to the AHA to replace the Alaska schools and UAH with more “buss-able” replacements in Pennsylvania, such as Mercyhurst and Robert Morris to backfill the league.

Moreover, there is plenty of historical precedent for this kind of financially-motivated decision in the WCHA.

First, the recent formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) that helped break up the WCHA in 2012-2013, led largely by DU and North Dakota, was not only a necessary competitive response to the formation of Big 10 hockey conference (which resulted in the WCHA losing Wisconsin and Minnesota), but an acknowledgement of different financial support philosophies for college hockey.

DU and UND did not like the cost-containment, low-investment mentality of some of the remaining WCHA schools at that time. Moreover, DU and North Dakota did not like being outvoted by these slow-growth, small-market WCHA members who not only would not invest in the future of the league, but who also propped up then-commissioner Bruce MacLeod’s slower, low-investment leadership style with a secret contract extension.  If you remember, the key phrase of the NCHC when it was formed, it was “like-minded schools.”  Given the cost-containment mentality in the WCHA, it is not surprising that schools that cost too much would be eventually pushed out.

Indeed, the entire organizational membership history of the WCHA since its formation in 1960 has been based on defensive reaction to circumstances rather than some grand western strategy to dominate college hockey.

In 1960, the WCHA was formed as a reaction to the predecessor league (WIHL)’s collapse in 1959 over different recruiting practices and a lack of league playoff system.

In 1981, the WCHA almost imploded again when Michigan’s then-athletic director, Don Canham, led a mass defection with Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Notre Dame leaving the WCHA to join the what was then the CCHA as ‘bus league” to avoid air travel to Colorado to play DU and CC, leaving only six WCHA members.  While Michigan Tech eventually came back to the WCHA in 1983, the other schools never did. By the way, Michigan has never played DU in regular season play since 1980-81, the last season Michigan was in the WCHA.

In other words, follow the money.

Puck Swami is the internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.

CC’s new 3,000-seat Robson Arena moves toward 2020 groundbreaking

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CC’s New Robson Arena – Exterior Entrance (note: final colors/materials not yet selected). Photo: Colorado College

Colorado College continues to move forward with the building of its own new 3,000-seat, on-campus Robson Arena, scheduled to open in 2021. According to a Sept. 18 business plan, the arena financing was estimated at about $45 million, with about $27 million of that funding from the CC community — Colorado College ($6 million) and CC donors ($21 million), with a good chunk of the donor money coming from former CC hockey player Ed Robson, Class of 1954. The remaining funding will come from $9 million in State/City tourism funds and the final $9 million from private bonds. In May 2019, CC began demolition of existing buildings on the arena site. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2020. Continue reading CC’s new 3,000-seat Robson Arena moves toward 2020 groundbreaking

DU’s Tyler Bozak Celebrates Stanley Cup

Former DU star Tyler Bozak of the St. Louis Blues shows off the Stanley Cup to hundreds of thousands of Blues fans at conclusion of the Blues’ team parade in downtown St. Louis on June 15. Photo: Tyler Bozak Twitter

The Denver Pioneer hockey program is celebrating the three latest DU alumni winners of the Stanley Cup Trophy, emblematic of an NHL Hockey Champion – Tyler Bozak –  a key forward for the 2019 champion St. Louis Blues, former DU defenseman Chris Butler who played 13 games with the Blues this season (and is a St. Louis native) and Bruce Affleck, a 1970s DU defenseman who today is a front office executive with the St. Louis Blues.

These three new Pioneer Stanley Cup Winners join a select group of fellow DU Pioneers who have also won the vaunted trophy as NHL players, coaches or management.  DU forward John MacMillan was the first DU Stanley Cup winner in the early 1960s, winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  DU forward and Hockey Hall-of -Famer Glenn Anderson is the most decorated DU Stanley Cup winner, winning six Stanley Cups in his career, mostly with the Edmonton Oiler dynasty of the 1980s.  1960s DU captain and two-time NCAA Champion Craig Patrick won two Stanley Cups as the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, while DU Pioneer forward Beau Bennett was the last Pioneer to play on a Stanley Cup-winning team (prior to this week) in 2016 with the Penguins. Kevin Dineen, who captained the Pioneers in the early 1980s, 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.

Center Tyler Bozak, who played two seasons with the Pioneers a decade ago, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent for the first nine seasons of his NHL career, and joined the St. Blues before this season just in time to help the Blues to an improbable Stanley Cup win over the Boston Bruins in seven games, after languishing in last place in January of 2019. Enjoy these photos of the last 48 hours of Bozak’s hockey life.

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Bozak after the win in Boston with young son Kanon (Center) and wife, Molly. Photo: Molly Bozak Twitter
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Bozak just after winning game seven in Boston. Photo: St. Louis Blues
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Bozak, the Stanley Cup, and Bozak’s wife, Molly, on the ice in Boston after the Game Seven win. Photo: Molly Bozak Twitter
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Chris Butler, a former DU defenseman and St. Louis native, got a chance to skate with the Stanley Cup after the Blues won the Cup in Boston.  Butler played in 13 games with St. Louis this year.

Hoch-Bullen’s 5 Goals Leads Denver to NCAA Elite Eight in Historic 9-5 Revenge Rout of Michigan

#17 DU shocked 7th-ranked Michigan in a 9-5 second round upset in the NCAA Tournament May 12. Photo: DU

The 17th-ranked Denver Pioneers (16-3) women’s lacrosse team made school history on May 12, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Mich., exacting a revenge upset on the #7th-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines (16-4) , 9-5 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. DU now advances to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in program history, and will play the top-ranked University of Maryland Terrapins on May 18 at 5pm MT for a trip to the NCAA final four.

Michigan had beaten Denver 12-10 at DU’s Barton Stadium earlier this season, and the Pioneers were in no mood to allow Michigan to win again. Continue reading Hoch-Bullen’s 5 Goals Leads Denver to NCAA Elite Eight in Historic 9-5 Revenge Rout of Michigan

Radochonski Powers Denver to 11-10 OT Upset of USC Trojans in NCAA First Round

Eliza Radochonski (#26 at center) was the DU hero, scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals for Denver in a 11-10 NCAA first round overtime upset over USC. Photo: University of Denver

The #17th-ranked University of Denver women’s lacrosse team upset the #13th-ranked University of Southern California, 11-10 in a dramatic overtime finish in Ann Arbor, Mich. to advance to the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

“I’m really proud of our fight today,” said DU head coach Liza Kelly after the game. “This is what we’ve been preparing for all year, and I think we came out ready to fight for that [NCAA Second Round] spot on Sunday.”

The late-game drama in Ann Arbor on Friday night was simply incredible. Continue reading Radochonski Powers Denver to 11-10 OT Upset of USC Trojans in NCAA First Round

DU Lacrosse to Play Georgetown for NCAA Berth, Big East Title Today

The entire season is on the line for the Denver Pioneers Men’s Lacrosse team today as the Georgetown Hoyas play DU for the Big East Championship (and the NCAA tournament auto-bid) at 2:30 PM MT at Barton Stadium.

The loser of today’s men’s game will have its season come to an end.

The Pioneers are looking for some revenge after DU lost to Georgetown in last year’s Big East Championship Game. DU also beat Georgetown earlier this season at Barton in regular season play. Game TV coverage is on CBS Sports Network.

The Denver women’s lacrosse team also faces Georgetown today for the Big East Women’s Championship and an NCAA auto-bid in Milwaukee. Game time is 12:30 MT.

 

Denver Thumps Providence Friars, 14-8 to Seal Big East Tourney Berth

DU goalie Cole French (at left) made six saves in his first start as a Pioneer. Photo: University of Denver

The 12th ranked Denver Pioneers (8-4, 3-1 Big East) men’s lacrosse team clinched a berth in the Big East Tournament on Senior Day, defeating Providence College (6-8, 2-2 Big East),14-8 before a sellout crowd of 2,187 at Barton Stadium on April 20.

“We had to keep shooting,” said DU coach Bill Tierney after the game today. “Everyone battled and we had a lot of guys score today…[Providence] is big, tough and extremely well-coached. We’re thrilled to get out of this one [with a win]…We [honored our seniors] one of the winningest senior classes in the country and they keep our winning culture and imparted that culture on the younger guys… We’re now playing for a [share of] a regular season championship, and we’ll have our hands full in Milwaukee [with Marquette] on Friday night.”  Continue reading Denver Thumps Providence Friars, 14-8 to Seal Big East Tourney Berth