The Denver Pioneers hockey roster continues to change, as rising junior forward Emilio Pettersen has left DU to sign an entry level contract with the Calgary Flames, while fellow rising junior Tyler Ward is transferring from DU to the University of New Hampshire, where he will need to sit out a year. According to the Grand Forks Herald, DU will help mitigate these losses as the beneficiary of two incoming graduate transfers with immediate eligibility join the DU team next season in- all-WCHA forward Steven Jandric of Alaska-Fairbanks and defenseman Bo Hanson from St. Lawrence University of the ECAC. While DU has yet to publicly announce the two transfers, both transfers were confirmed to LetsGoDU last week. Continue reading Pettersen and Ward Leaving Pioneers, Jandric and Hanson Transferring In
Denver star defenseman Ian Mitchell scored one of the most memorable goals of his Pioneer career on a short-handed, unassisted breakaway — a decisive game-winning goal at 7:16 the third period, as the Denver Pioneers blew open a tight game in third period and cruised to 6-3 NCHC win over St. Cloud State University to delight the nearly 6,000 fans at Magness Arena in Denver. Continue reading Denver Pioneers Blow-Out St. Cloud St. Huskies in Series Opener, 6-3
Our own Puck Swami has authored a four-part historical retrospective for the 70th anniversary of the DU Hockey program. This is Part II. Part One can be found here, and Parts III and IV will follow in the coming weeks. While these stories will run far longer than our usual stories, remember that 70 years is a lot to cover. Enjoy!
Given DU hockey’s successes in the program’s first 20 years, there was no reason to believe that the Pioneer hockey program was about to enter a 35-year period with no NCAA titles. After all, there was plenty of talent in the pipeline. In the early 1970s, DU leveraged its 1960s dominance to attract a number of star players who would move on the NHL — George Morrison, Peter McNab, Bruce Affleck, Rob Palmer, Mike Busniuk, Rich Preston, Mike Christie, Mike Lampman, Vic Venasky and Ron Grahame would all wear the Crimson and Gold in the early-to-mid 70s before moving on to the highest level. Continue reading 70 Years of DU Hockey History Part II: A Temporary Decline – 1970-1994
On November 2 at Magness Arena, you could feel something powerful.
It was tradition — the glue that binds us all together as part of a special DU community.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Valerio / DU Athletics
DENVER – It was an interesting game Friday at Magness Arena when the Pioneers hosted Niagara. We knew it was going to be a steep hill to climb from the start for the Purple Eagles coming into Denver and facing a hot Pioneers team, but they didn’t help themselves by taking 11 minor penalties. Towards the end of the game, Niagara looked exhausted from defending their own goal but they battled to the end. Let’s see how this game unfolded. Continue reading Pioneers take first of two from Niagara 6-2
Our own Puck Swami has authored a four-part historical retrospective for the 70th anniversary of the DU Hockey program. Part One begins today, and the other three parts will follow in the coming weeks. While these stories will run far longer than our usual stories, remember that 70 years is a lot to cover. Enjoy!
As we celebrate 70 years of Pioneer hockey this coming weekend (Nov. 1-2, 2019), it helps to know just how far the DU Hockey program has evolved in those 70 years. The first 20 formative years saw DU go from a terrible start-up program to the dominant program of the 1960s as a five-time NCAA Champion. Part One of this series reviews those first 20 years of DU Hockey. Continue reading 70 Years of DU Hockey History: The First 20 Years 1949-1969
Those of you who contributed to the “Go Denver Pioneers Spirit Fund” over the last 12 months will see the first fruits of your donations tonight at the Denver vs. Boston College Hockey Game!
The spirit fund has purchased over 100 re-usable DU fan signs and banners (see examples in the photo accompanying this story) designed to enhance the game-day experience in multiple different sections around Magness Arena. This new signage will be available for use during games by season ticket holders and students, and the DU athletic department is handling game-day distribution and end-of-game retention.
This first signage investment represents less than 1/6th of the current fund so stay tuned for more purchases to debut later this season!
To make your contribution to the Go Denver Pioneers Spirit Fund, click this link,
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
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.
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.