Category Archives: Hockey

Four Burning Questions for Denver Fall Athletics

Volleyball 100Can head coach Tom Hogan’s volleyball squad defend their 5-year regular-season conference winning streak and five consecutive NCAA appearances following the graduation of stars Becca Latham and Emma Willis along with season-ending injuries to outside hitter Taylor Joachim and to their best player, outside hitter Katarina Marinkovic? The addition of Louisville transfer outside hitter Amanda Green will help but…will a raw Pioneer team mature by league play? This will be DU’s most challenging season in recent memory. A repeat performance would be Hogan’s best coaching job ever at the University of Denver.

Continue reading Four Burning Questions for Denver Fall Athletics

DU’s Hockey Uniforms Grow in Appeal Over Time

Photo: Courtesy University of Denver Athletics

We wrote about North Dakota’s hockey uniform changes earlier this week. But what about DU’s hockey uniform evolution?

In large measure, much of DU’s hockey uniform concept dates from the early years of the DU hockey program in the early 1950s, when the Pioneers introduced home and away jerseys in both crimson and white with crimson pants, with the school/city name “Denver” placed in arching letters across the chest. Those jerseys also had a large red, white and gold elbow striping on the sleeve and shins with a later matching stripe around the bottom of the jersey, which was added in the 1960s. Those cornerstone design elements, with some periodic typestyle and color evolutions, are still on the jerseys today and are crucial parts of the DNA of Denver’s hockey look and tradition. Continue reading DU’s Hockey Uniforms Grow in Appeal Over Time

North Dakota Fighting Hawks launch new hockey uniforms

For the second time in three years, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks have introduced new hockey new uniforms. The new Adidas sweaters are ‘stripier’ than prior uniforms with repeating green, black and white stripes.

The home uniform plays down the Fighting Hawk logo and features North Dakota. The away uniform offers up a design twist with a revision to the current logo and more bold stripes. The alternate jersey has angled stripes and the University is piloting a revised Fighting Hawk logo.

North Dakota Uniforms Feature Pic 4
Optional ‘Yankee pinstripe pants’ were introduced with alternating green and white stripes.

Continue reading North Dakota Fighting Hawks launch new hockey uniforms

The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark interviews Denver head coach David Carle, the highlights:

Photo: Courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald

The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark published an in-depth Q&A with DU’s hockey head coach David Carle to discuss the past season and upcoming expectations. Coming off a 24-12-5 record and a trip to the Frozen Four, Carle discussed the ‘sting’ of not winning a national championship. And, of course, he emphasized the need to continue to grow and improve while competing in the toughest college hockey conference in the nation. Continue reading The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark interviews Denver head coach David Carle, the highlights:

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.

Pioneers in the Playoffs: Sasha Kandrach

It is an exciting time to be an NHL  hockey fan with a number of tight Stanley Cup playoff series and a red hot local squad – the Colorado Avalanche. Add a host of former DU hockey players to the playoff mix and first-year coach Jim Montgomery winning his first playoff series for the Dallas Stars and you have compelling story lines.

But many of us have our eyes on the New York Islanders. Yep, that’s right – the Isles.

Journalist Sasha Kandrach, a former LetsGoDU feature writer, is now on the Islanders beat as a reporter and social media coordinator living out her ‘dream job’. And, we couldn’t be more proud of the Islanders first-year  journalist. Continue reading Pioneers in the Playoffs: Sasha Kandrach

Denver to host West Regionals in Loveland in 2020 & 2021

Photo credit: NCAA Ice Hockey Twitter

The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament is returning to Colorado for the first time since 2008 when the Pepsi Center hosted the Frozen Four. This morning, the NCAA announced the 2020 & 2021 regional sites and hosts and the University of Denver’s bid to host the West Regional at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland in both of those years was selected. This announcement brings national postseason college hockey back to a state that has meant so much to the history of the sport.

As the only site that will serve as a host in the next two tournaments, Loveland will join Albany, NY (East), Worcester, MA (Northeast), and Allentown, PA (Midwest) as regional hosts in 2020 and Bridgeport, CT (East), Manchester, NH (Northeast), and Fargo, ND (Midwest) in 2021. Continue reading Denver to host West Regionals in Loveland in 2020 & 2021

Ian Mitchell Returning to DU for Junior Year

Denver defenseman Ian Mitchell plans to return to Denver for his junior year/ Photo: DU

Denver Pioneer hockey defenseman and alternate captain Ian Mitchell will return for his junior year in the Pioneers’ 70th anniversary season, Mitchell announced on Wednesday. Mitchell’s decision to return ended speculation that second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks would end his college career early to sign an NHL contract.

“In the past few days since our season ended, I have had the chance to reflect on the year and the season our team had,” Mitchell, a Calahoo, Alberta native, said in a DU  press release. “It became clear to me during that time that I did not feel ready mentally or physically to leave Denver. I believe this is the best place for me to become a better hockey player and as a team we have an opportunity to do something very special next year. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for being so supportive and respectful of my decision to remain in school and continue my development. I am looking forward to next season.”

Mitchell has eight goals, 49 assists and 32 penalty minutes through 80 career games with the Pioneers. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect registered six goals, 21 assists and 18 penalty minutes through 39 games during the 2018-19 season, leading Denver defensemen in points and leading all Pioneer skaters with 12 power-play points and 66 blocked shots to earn Second-Team All-NCHC honors. In January, Mitchell represented Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship where he posted one goal and two assists in five games.

Mitchell is a two-time member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team and a two-time NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete. Prior to coming to Denver, Mitchell tallied 14 goals and 50 assists in 109 games with the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) from 2015-17. He represented Canada at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, 2015 World U-17 Hockey Challenge and 2015 Winter Games.