Monday, April 03, 2006

Jim Wiste ('69) - Continues Success At Campus Lounge

DU Hockey Alumni

by Irv Moss, Denver Post

Jim Wiste's theme in playing hockey and living life has a lot of Murray Armstrong, the storied University of Denver hockey coach, built into it.

Maybe the best example came in 1969 when Wiste moved from captain of DU's collegiate program to rookie with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. Wiste jumped into the challenge at training camp with youthful enthusiasm, but was jolted when some of the veterans let it be known his style was irritating.

A call to Armstrong for advice got a two-word response.

"Go harder," Wiste remembered hearing from his former coach. "Murray didn't speak a lot, but when he did you listened."

Armstrong's messages at times had Wiste ready to walk through walls to get on the ice. He would save his best for special games.

"Before you went on the ice, he'd grab your hand and look you right in the eye and say 'Good luck to you, Jim,"' Wiste said. "The veins would be sticking out in his face. Jeez, you hardly could wait for the national anthem to finish. He gave speeches, and let me tell you, he had some speeches."

Wiste didn't waste the words or his talent.

He twice was an All-American at DU, scoring 139 career points. With Wiste and Cliff Koroll as captains, the 1968 Pioneers won the NCAA championship, beating North Dakota 4-0 with Gerry Powers in goal in the title game. Wiste played for the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks and earned a ring when Chicago won its first Original Six championship. His professional career included stops with Vancouver and the New York Rangers, and Cleveland and Indianapolis in the World Hockey Association.

"Winning the NCAA title was the biggest thrill in my hockey career because I look back on how tough it was," Wiste said. "In the championship game against North Dakota it was 0-0 with 10 minutes left in the game. I've played in Stanley Cup Finals and never felt the pressure that is there in a one-game series. When you're a senior and going out, you say it would be great to leave as a winner."

Koroll remembered Wiste as being effective on the power play.

"He not only was a good goal-scorer, but he was a tremendous playmaker," Koroll said. "He was just a great college player."

"You always felt good when Jim Wiste was on the ice," Powers said. "He knew how to pick the other team apart."

But there was another time when Wiste called on the memory of Armstrong's terse, powerful good luck for motivation.

"When I finished my hockey career in 1976, I was 31 years old," Wiste said. "When your career is over no one is prepared for it. It's the toughest decision a player has to make. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I'd interview and they'd say, 'What have you done? We're not looking for a left winger right now.' Your earning power starts high

and it drops to nothing."

A restaurant-lounge on South University Boulevard was for sale, and he bought it.

"I didn't know a thing about the restaurant business," Wiste said. "But like with sports, the timing was good, I was lucky and I knew this area as it was close to DU."

The Campus Lounge became Wiste's power play.

"One thing about hockey players is that they support each other," Wiste said. "The whole Blackhawks team has come here. Bobby Orr and Don Cherry would come in. Everybody would say 'Meet you at the Campus."'

The place also has become a haven for DU's hockey program past and present.

The hockey stories abound. A night rarely goes by that DU's encounters with the Russians, the Czechs, the Finns and the U.S. and Canadian national teams during Armstrong's era are told and retold.

DU's 2-2 tie with the Russians in 1960 preceded the U.S. winning the hockey gold medal in Squaw Valley. The Pioneers also tied the Russians 4-4 in 1959.

"We never went home for Christmas because we were playing against international competition at The Broadmoor," Wiste said. "We played the Russians, the Czechs, the Finns, the U.S. and Canadian national teams. It brought us to another level. Murray would say that some of those teams could beat the NHL."

"When we played the Russian team in 1968, it was a huge turning point for us," Powers said. "We realized that even though we were outplayed and lost 8-1, we skated with them."

The Pioneers won 22 straight games on the way to the NCAA crown after losing to the Russians.

Wiste came to DU from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for his freshman year in 1965.

"Denver didn't have pro teams except for minor-league baseball," Wiste said. "We were front page of the paper, top cabin. People would be dressed up for our games. It was a social event.

"I'm proud of the fact that I made All-American at center one year and right wing the next year. But you don't get honors like that on your own. I was confident I could play college hockey. The pros were another step."

It's all in the stories that go around in the Campus Lounge.

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