Monday, August 31, 2009

Mockup Of Boone Jersey

(above) Jersey #1

(above) Jersey #2

(above) Jersey #3

Last week the Hockey News said DU had the worst jerseys in the WCHA. This touched off a rancorous debate about Boone and his future at DU.

Well, we're not the type of blog that just sits around a bitches about problems. We solve them. Thanks to DU student Matt Bick we now have three viable choices for an updated Boone Jersey. If there's an overwhelming favorite, we'll get a few made up and give them away.

Discuss, debate or flame away....

DU Begins Captain's Practices Today

(above) DU begins Captain's Practices today

Ice time is usually 2:30-5:15 PM on either the main ice or Burns Rink depending on conflicts in Magness Arena. Since the practices are voluntary, a full squad is never guaranteed.

Per NCAA Rules, DU coaches get two hours a week starting September 15th.

Official practice kicks off October 3rd at 10 AM.

Old School Boone Jersey

(above) Doug Berry wearing the "DU Boone Jersey" in the mid-seventies

DU Hockey Season Countdown

(above) Just 37 days until Boone returns to Magness Arena against Vermont

The DU Student Season Ticket Campout has been set for September 25-26.

Almost 200 DU Hockey Alums will be returning to campus for the 60th Anniversary of DU Hockey on September 9-11, 2009. The DHAA Website has all the details.

Denver Boone has over 2,200 "friends" on Facebook.com. Sign up today to be in the loop with the latest photos, updates and scheduled appearances around the country.

DU's 2009-10 Hockey Schedule is posted at DenverPioneers.com

Sunday, August 30, 2009

News & Notes From Around Pioneer Nation

The Bleacher Report has an article entitled, "Five Players You Better Get To Know." DU Alum Tyler Bozak was listed at #1. The article mentioned that Bozak's incentive based contract was equivalent to what a "top five" NHL draft pick would have received. Speaking of Bozak, the Maple Leafs have a new offseason conditioning program based on a stationary bike set up by Chris Carmichael, the trainer for cyclist Lance Armstrong. According to the article, Bozak really likes the training regimen.

You can take this ranking with a grain of salt, but Western College Hockey Blog ranks the best college hockey recruits out West. Drew Shore came in at #8, Matt Donovan #12 & William Wrenn at #19. Donovan & Wrenn probably should have been ranked a lot higher. Perhaps Donovan at #3, Wrenn at #8 and Shore at #10.

Hockey's Future has been ranking all the Top Prospects for each NHL team. Joe Colborne was listed as the #2 prospect for the Bruins and Patrick Wiercioch as #6 for Ottawa. The fact that HF's has Wiercioch rated behind three other defensemen & Colborne will be given "time to develop" gives DU a glimmer of hope that one or both could return for a third season at DU next year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hockey News Votes DU's Jersey's "Worst In WCHA"

(above) The Hockey News judged DU's hockey sweaters to be the worst in the WCHA

The Hockey News ranked all the jerseys in college hockey and divided them by conference. Despite winning seven national championships, DU's jerseys came dead last, even finishing well behind WCHA upstart Bemidji State.

The Hockey News noted DU's jersey's were, "Too crowded for hockey; almost looks NASCAR."

As we've been saying for years, bring Boone back to the jersey, eliminate all the fluff and watch merchandise sales go through the roof.

The fans have spoken, the Hockey News has spoken, its time for DU to listen.

NHL.com Profiles DU Alum Tyler Bozak

(above) DU Alum Tyler Bozak is hoping to start the year on Toronto's NHL Roster

From: NHL.com
by Shawn P Roarke

Tyler Bozak, the 23-year-old free-agent who is being projected as a pillar of the Maple Leafs' renaissance, says he is champing at the bit to do his part.

Reservations about the season-compromising knee injury he suffered last season while with the University of Denver are a thing of the past, he told NHL.com on Wednesday during an appearance at an Upper Deck event at the Hershey Centre.

"We've been skating hard for the last three weeks and (the knee) feels 100 percent," Bozak said. "It feels all better and back to normal."

Even though the injury to his knee scared the daylights out of him and limited him to just 23 games as a sophomore with the Pioneers, Bozak insists there was a silver lining associated with the first serious injury of his young career.

"The injury actually got my upper body bigger and that was what I needed," Bozak said. "So, in a way, I look at it as I know it's not a good thing, but I try to take positives out of it and I am stronger and my upper body is a lot bigger.

In fact, Bozak was considered ready by many to come out after his freshman season at Denver, but decided to stay a second year because he did not feel he was strong enough to compete at the pro level. Now, however, thanks to all the time spent in the gym during the rehab process, he believes he has a body ready for the rigors of the NHL.

"I've put on about 20 pounds since last year when I decided to stay, so I think it was a good decision and I am happy with it," Bozak said.

Leaf fans are happy with the addition of Bozak, part of an aggressive overhaul of the team being engineered by GM Brian Burke. Not only has Burke brought in a number of proven NHL free agents, but he has rolled the dice with some young unproven free agents.

Since the 2008-09 season ended, Burke and his group has signed Bozak, Christian Hanson, Robert Slaney and Jonas Gustavsson, a Swedish goalie considered at the time of his signing to be the best goalie not playing in the NHL.

"(Bozak)’s a responsible player at both ends of the ice and he has shown the ability to put points on the board with his quickness at the collegiate level," Burke said upon signing Bozak, who was pursued by virtually every team in the League.

The interest in Bozak was to be expected.

Bozak's college coach George Gwozdecky compared him to Paul Stastny, another U of D product who is now a burgeoning star with the Colorado Avalanche. In two NCAA seasons, Bozak produced 57 points in 60 games. He led the Pioneers in scoring as a freshman, but was still a plus-12 with five shorthanded goals. In his final season of juniors, playing with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League, Bozak put up a league-best 128 points.

Now, however, Bozak knows his past accomplishments mean very little. Toronto is hungry for a winner after several lean years and Bozak and Co. are being counted on to be at the vanguard of that resurgence.

He says the opportunity to right the Maple Leafs was part of the reason he signed with the Original Six franchise.

"I know Burkie and the type of guy he is and how good a general manager he is," Bozak said. "It's a team that is sort of in a rebuilding process with our defense and our goaltending now, all the way up to our forwards. It's exciting and something I wanted to be a part of.

"There's still a lot of competition here and it is going to be hard to make this team. I'm just looking to fit in and fill a role."

That's right, Bozak plans to make the Maple Leafs this year, jumping right from college to the most-scrutinized team in the League. He was in Toronto after he signed in the spring and got a taste for the passion the city possesses for the team. He has spent the summer here, working out with other Toronto prospects and he remains amazed about how consumed the populace is with the Leafs

"I've had a good taste of Toronto and I love it," Bozak said. "When I was up here last year after my (college) season, I got a really good taste. I was just in the room and saw the guys and how everything went. The fan support is unbelievable here and the organization is in great shape and things are looking up for the next few years."

DU Vollyball Opens Season Against Notre Dame

(above) The DU volleyball team will open the 2009 season this coming weekend at the Shamrock Invitational, hosted by Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. (click on picture to enlarge)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

News & Notes From Around Pioneer Nation

Western College Hockey Blog has a profile on incoming Freshman Drew Shore.

Tyler Bozak posed for his Upper Deck NHL Rookie Card yesterday along with John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene -- the top three picks of last month's draft.

DU Hockey's 60th Anniversary Committee has updated the list of former players attending the reunion in October.

DU Alum Leaving RPI To Return To Denver

(left) Shawn Kurulak played at DU from 1996-99

From: Troy Record
by Ed Weaver


The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s hockey family has lost a key member, as assistant coach Shawn Kurulak has resigned.

The former University of Denver defenseman and assistant coach is returning to the Denver area to spend more time with his family.

While that clichéd phrase is often a catch-all excuse to cover the true reason(s) a coach or player leaves a program, it’s totally accurate for Kurulak.

“It’s strictly a family decision,” he said on Wednesday. “I need to be with them more than I have been. I love this place and it’s been a great three years of my life but this is just something I need to do for my family.”

“Our profession keeps us away from home a lot,” RPI head coach and former DU assistant coach Seth Appert said. “Shawn wants to put his young family first.

“We will miss him,” Appert said of Kurulak. “He’s done a very good job here and I appreciate everything he’s done for RPI hockey.”

Appert said RPI players will miss Kurulak a great deal.

“He had a good balance of being tough on them and still being their buddy,” he said.

“Obviously, it was very difficult to tell the guys,” he said. “It was very emotional.”

Rensselaer has not officially announced Kurulak’s resignation and Appert said there are dozens of applicants for the vacated position.

“We wanted to tell all our upperclassmen, all our incoming freshman and all our recruits personally before it was on the internet,” Appert said.

And coaching changes, even among assistants, can often cause players currently being recruited to feel uneasy.

Kurulak and fellow assistant Jim Montgomery played big parts in RPI’s recruitment of players in all four current classes.

Kurulak’s immediate plans include hockey only at the youth level in the Denver area.

“I don’t want to say I’m out of (college) hockey for good,” he said. “I just need to do something else right now.”

A four-year letterwinner on the blueline for the Pioneers, Kurulak wore the alternate captain's "A" for three seasons. A three-time WCHA All-Academic selection, he helped the team to the league championship as a senior. In 131 career games, he had 41 points (7 goals, 34 assists) and 268 penalty minutes. He also represented the WCHA on an all-star team that traveled to Switzerland for an international tournament in 1998.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DU Alum Gavin Morgan Signs With ECHL Team

(above) DU Alum Gavin Morgan will return to the U.S. after a stint in Norway to play for the Reading Royals of the ECHL

From: Our Sports Central.com

Reading, PA - The Reading Royals of the ECHL, affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, today announced that the team has signed forward and DU Alum Gavin Morgan.

Last season, Morgan, who was born in Scarborough, Ontario, scored ten goals, assisted on twenty-four others and picked up 163 penalty minutes in thirty-nine regular season games with Valerenga Ishockey in Oslo, Norway. Morgan and his teammates with Valerenga went on to win the Norwegian Get Ligean championship.

LetsGoDU2 Features Best Articles From This Blog

When we run across an interesting, exceptional or unusual article about a DU player, coach or hockey alum we repost them over at LetsGoDU2. Since its the summer and content is scarce, check out LetsGoDU2 for the best articles about DU hockey.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Denver Post Looks At DU's Developmental Pipeline

Mike Chambers has a full length article in today's Denver Post about DU's role in developing players for professional hockey. Check it out.
"When George Gwozdecky took over the University of Denver hockey team in 1994, the coach had two NHL draft picks on his roster. Every player was expected to play four years. Discussing a player's professional future took place after his eligibility expired.

Today, the Pioneers have a program-record 13 NHL draft picks, and some underclassmen who joined the program at age 18 might not be around to see their junior seasons." (read rest of article)

Monday, August 24, 2009

DU Hockey's 60th Reunion News & Notes


News & Notes from the DU Hockey's 60th Anniversary Website.

  • Jon Art, class of ’62 and a leader on and off the ice, knows a good thing when he sees it! He was the first to register. So has George (Curly) Kirkwood ‘62.
  • Mark Rycroft, class of 2001 and former Colorado Avalanche, has registered and has gotten his former teammates Hobie Baker Award Winner, Matt Carle who is currently playing with the Philadelphia Flyers and Paul Stasney of the Colorado Avalanche to register as well.
  • Gerry Powers class of ’69 and 2 time NCAA Champ is communicating with all of his teammates and says the 67-69 Pioneers will have more members of their team at the celebration than any other team. The gauntlet has been laid down!
  • Ed Zimmeru, Captain of the 1st DU NCAA Championship team back in 1958, has committed as have several of his teammates.
  • Rod Summers, Class of 1990, is working the phones and e-mail to get the Backstrom era to turn out.
  • Angelo Ricci and Mark Luger says the Serratore era will be well represented. Mark Luger and Donald McLennan have already registered.
  • Marshall Johnston was in town in February and stopped by the Magnus Arena to do a video promotion that was aired at the last few DU games of the season as well as on local TV.
  • Many, many Denver area fans are coming out of the woodwork and have asked to attend/participate in the celebration. We have even received unsolicited donations from fans saying how much Denver Hockey has meant to them and the community over the years.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another DUI Arrest For A North Dakota Player


Frattin, 21, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Wednesday, according to a team statement. Coach Dave Hakstol announced Frattin’s dismissal for a violation of team rules.

In July, Frattin and former North Dakota teammate Joe Finley were arrested for disorderly conduct after campus police observed them throwing cups, plates, a kitchen table and a lawnmower from a residential garage.

UND Players Run-ins With The Law

August, 2005 - UND Captain Matt Greene arrested for DUI
July, 2006
- Robbie Bina Arrested For DUI
September, 2006 - Joe Finley arrested for "Loud Party"
November, 2006 - Jonathan Toews Charged with "minor in consumption and noisy party gathering"
February, 2007 - Toews, T.J. Oshie & Bina arrested at Judy's Tavern
February, 2007- Grand Forks Police Chief Packett addresses team
April, 2007 - Toews & Oshie plead guilty
May, 2007 - Finley ordered to pay fine & perform community service
December, 2007 - Oshie arrested again, this time for disorderly conduct allegedly after peeing in an elevator
July, 2009 - Finley & Matt Frattin arrested for disorderly conduct, fleeing from police and giving false information
August, 2009 - Frattin arrested again. This time its DUI

News & Notes From Around Pioneer Nation


Former DU Captain Brian Vines is leaving the Miami University Redhawks to join former DU assistant Seth Appert at RPI. Vines a former defenseman for the University of Denver served as a volunteer assistant coach for the RedHawk staff for the 2008-09 season. Vines will replace another former Pioneer, Shawn Kurulak who resigned as an RPI assistant coach in order to move back to Denver and pursue business interests not related to hockey.

Former DU star Tyler Bozak will have to battle Christian Hanson and Andre Deveaux for fourth line duties on the Toronto Maple Leafs this preseason.

Hockey's Future ripped incoming Freshman Drew Shore in this scouting analysis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Snoopy Senior Tourney Is Annual DU Reunion

(above) The championship winning DU Alumni Team will have plenty of bragging rights at DU Hockey's 60th Anniversary

Editor's Note: The final installment of LetsGoDU's four-part series focuses on the common bonds that exist between the upcoming 60th anniversary reunion of DU Hockey and the Snoopy Tournament. Included are thoughts from all of the alumni players from this year’s Snoopy team. Thanks again to DJ Powers who has given us this wonderful glimpse into DU's rich hockey tradition.

Exclusive to LetsGoDU
By DJ Powers

Staff Writer - NCAA
Hockey's Future (http://www.hockeysfuture.com)

Future Considerations (http://www.futureconsiderations.ca)


This October, the University of Denver will celebrate 60 years of Pioneers hockey. While this reunion celebration spans the entire history of the program and takes place about once every ten years, another DU hockey reunion takes place every July in Santa Rosa, CA. called the Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament (aka The Snoopy Tournament).

The commonality between the Pioneers hockey 60th anniversary reunion and the Snoopy Tournament are the many alumni involved. All of the alumni who participate in the Snoopy Tournament played under the legendary Murray Armstrong and some were even members of DU’s earliest NCAA Championship teams.

Of the 15 players who donned the crimson and gold jersey at the Snoopy Tournament this year, nine were DU alumni.

The Snoopy Tournament, in many ways, is an annual reunion to the men who participate in it each year. It is about being reunited with a fellow Pioneer and being with family. To understand just how close these men are, all you have to do is watch how they interact with one another – both on and off the ice. It is a fraternity that is unlike any other.

“This (Snoopy Tournament) for us is so special,” said Wayne Smith. “This is our group in our particular period, so we have great, close relationships within this particular group and so this almost serves as our annual get-together for a reunion.”

All nine alumni players gave their personal insights into what the 60th anniversary reunion means to them at last month’s Snoopy Tournament. While not all of them will be attending the October celebration, most will.

“Well we’re looking forward to the 2009 reunion,” Norm Kvern glowingly intoned. “It’s the 60th anniversary of DU hockey and we’re encouraging all alumni, their spouses, and their friends to please come out and have a great time because it’s going to be a wonderful reunion and be a lot of fun for everybody. We live in Denver, so we’ll host anybody and a cocktail party too. We’ll share a few cold beers at the Campus Lounge, the Stadium Inn and where ever else that may be required.”

“I’ll be there at the reunion and very much looking forward to it,” added Bill Pettinger. “I booked it about three months ago and just really looking forward to getting reacquainted with all of the guys.”

What makes reunions such as these so special are the many fascinating, humorous and heart-warming stories. Simply put, even the best writers in the world could never dream up most of this stuff. When you hear the stories, you also see the emotions too, whether it’s about the newest word that Murray Armstrong had put into their vocabulary or going back to the day that Keith Magnuson was taken from them.

“I think it’s wonderful that so many of the people are getting together again and having a lot of fun and recounting old tales, past glories and the humorous moments,” said Smith. “Whether I’ll be there or not, I don’t know right now, but we kind of think that we will be. We may make a special trip to Denver because that’s where our children and grandchildren are, so we may work something out depending on what our schedules are. We’d like to be there.”

Players such as Ron Grahame are even making it a family affair.

“I will be at the reunion with my wife, Charlotte and my son, Jason, who graduated in ’03. 60 years is pretty special. I’m hoping that there are a lot of DU alums that will come back and kind of get to get reacquainted with each other and find out what everybody is doing. I think it’ll feel like people never left and that they do come back. It would be very special if they would do that. I don’t think there are any real goals, other than the fact of trying to get alumni back to the campus who haven’t been there for a long time to see the campus and just to get reacquainted. I don’t think there’s anything that’s special about what the alumni in 60 years are trying to do for the current program, but it’s going to be nice because it’s during the season. They can see a game and see how the game has changed.”

The reality that this particular group will dwindle in the coming years is something that they have all accepted and try not to think about. And it is also an indication that these reunions in Denver will see fewer of the original Pioneers in the years to come as well.

““I think it’s great because when we get to this age, we get to see these eight or nine guys that we don’t get to see that don’t still play hockey,” said Wayne Wiste. “So going back there and seeing everybody for the last time will be great because we all have our health going down and it may have something working with me too. So that’s why I’m really anxious to be going back, to see some of those guys that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

“I hope to see a lot of people that I really don’t know like people from the 60’s to today and the people that were there before us, so I hope a lot of people will show up,” added John MacMillan. “It may cause a lot of camaraderie that may not be there simply because I don’t know anybody that played in the 70’s and might know some of the guys that played on the early teams, the really early teams, but I don’t know. A lot of those guys are gone or not doing well (health-wise). I think it could be a lot of fun, which may cause what Donny (Cameron) is trying to build here (at the Snoopy Tournament), and really support the team for Gwozdecky there.”

One player who will not be attending the 60th anniversary reunion is defenseman Bob Peers, but he also has a pretty good reason too.

“I think that’s great to have a program that is as strong as it has been over that period of time. I think Michigan is the one program that we look at record-wise that have achieved a similar thing, but Michigan is also a bigger school. I think the University of Denver on a whole, for a relatively small school to have national champions, a hockey scene and what they’ve had is a major accomplishment. I think the recognition that it’s getting is really great, but I’m not going. Dolli’s mother is having her 100th birthday that same weekend. So that’s important to both of us.”

All of the alumni on the DU Snoopy Tournament team know just how much work and how many people were involved in making the upcoming 60th anniversary reunion celebration possible, and players such as Jim Wiste and Don Cameron wanted to be sure to acknowledge some of them.

“There’s a lot to coordinate that people don’t realize that goes into it and yet it’s only for two or three days,” explained Wiste. “So I’m looking forward to it. Peg (Bradley-Doppes) has been so helpful and the school has been unbelievable. They should be thanked for it because they have spent so much for everything and have helped us so much. I think that should be put across. Ronnie Grahame has helped a lot and he’s with the university. George has given us ice time too. They could just say to us “do what you have to do,” but they’ve done more than that and I think that’s important. That’s also what makes us feel good and makes us want to do things for them as well.

"We’re going to see guys that we haven’t seen in a long time. I’m going to meet players that I’ve never met that played for DU. I think our tradition is there. Here at the Snoopy Tournament we’re known as the University of Denver team and 80 to 90 percent of our players are from DU. I was just talking with some people and I was telling them that I think what helps an organization is their tradition, whether it be pro or just college. The schools that seem to do well have good traditions and I think that’s so important down the line when you look at a Notre Dame or a Michigan."

"Michigan might be our rivals (at the Snoopy Tournament), but you have to respect them for their tradition. We have that too and we want to continue it. I’m from Saskatchewan, so the day that I came down here I was a young boy from a small town who was all of a sudden in Denver. I’ve made my home here and my life has changed. When you look back at it, Murray always said “things will never be the same for you because you’re going to change, whether it be hockey or your life or your style or things like that.” So I think these are things that we don’t have enough time to go over in every respect because you’re thinking about things like the friendships. I think the biggest thing is that you don’t see players in a long time and they’re like brothers. I think the DU tradition is one of the strongest in hockey. If not, we’re in the top five and we’re on the map. I think hockey put DU on the map.”

“I’m really looking forward to it, added Cameron. “The people behind it have worked really, really hard. Most of the alumni have been back at one time or another, but this one is covering a lot of years. So it’ll be interesting. They’ll be some things that I’m sure will happen, like the 60s teams will gather, and the teams before us and the teams after us will gather too. And then there will be times when we all will get together. One of the beauties about DU hockey is that it spans so many years. We certainly know the names of the guys from the 50s and we’ve met most of them. They would maybe able to relate to us a little bit. We would be able to relate to the guys after us and they relate back to us, so after awhile it’s just that same ‘ol thing. It’s that common bond and the pride of playing in a great program. You also get see everyone in person at DU. So when we have the reunion it will be quite nice.”

While the upcoming 60th anniversary reunion is sure to rekindle and even begin new friendships between the many generations of players who will be present, it will also remind us all of the importance of preserving a cherished and illustrious tradition that is known as DU hockey.

In some ways, the Snoopy Tournament serves as an endearing albeit little known testament to that tradition. And as long as DU continues to have teams in the tournament, the past will continue to live on and come to life with those who make the pilgrimage to California each summer to participate in this very unique hockey reunion.

DU Alum Paul Stastny At USA Olympic Tryouts


(above) DU Alum Paul Stastny discusses passports, citizenship and language barriers at the USA Olympic Tryout Camp after practice

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bob Peers: A True Denver Pioneer

(above) DU Alum Bob Peers with wife Dolli

Editors Note - The third chapter of our four-part series focuses on one of the more inimitable players on the DU's 60 year & over Alumni team – Bob Peers. The Manitoba native takes us through his life as a DU Pioneer and along the way, he shares his wonderfully entertaining stories about virtually everything from how he came to meet then marry his lovely wife, Dolli, to the notorious 1965-66 regular season game at Colorado College that almost caused a riot and a great story about Murray Armstrong's famous hats.

Exclusive to LetsGoDU
By DJ Powers

Staff Writer - NCAA
Hockey's Future (http://www.hockeysfuture.com)

Future Considerations (http://www.futureconsiderations.ca)


Defenseman and DU Alum Bob Peers is certainly one of a kind.

He is as volatile on the ice as he is pleasant off of it. And he has become a master of sorts of the one-line zingers.

Oh, and he’s quite proud of being a Denver Pioneer too.

Peers attended the University of Denver from 1962-1966, and began his DU playing career in his Sophomore year. He amassed 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists) in 84 career games, along with 114 penalty minutes. So just how did Peers come to play for DU?

“At the time when I was growing up, there was only one Junior “A” league across Canada. So I played my last two years of high school with the Manitoba Junior League with a team called the St. Boniface Canadiens. At that time it was also prior to the draft as well, so you’re owned by whatever (NHL) team that sponsored that junior team. At that time, St. Boniface was sponsored by Boston. You don’t have any choice as to who you belonged to. But the choices that you do have were you either go into their system or you could go to college. So as soon as I finished high school, I wanted to go to college for whatever reasons and there were a lot of things that just kind of went into that makeup. I wanted to go to college and I wanted to go to Denver, and I’m not sure why because you’re pretty unsophisticated at that time. There wasn’t back then what there is in recruiting today. I let it be known that I wanted to go there, so Murray Armstrong came up to Winnipeg and watched me play. He then came over to my house and sat down with my folks and everything and offered me a full ride the following year. So graduating from high school then going to college was just a really smooth transition for me. It was pretty good. We had a fairly large freshman class that year and we lived in the dorms. I had four roommates and one of them was Norm Kvern. He came out of Flin Flon. Then there was Andy Herrebout and Miles Gillard, who also played in Flin Flon, and Dave Paderski was from Flin Flon, but played in Estevan (Saskatchewan), and they were all three years older than I was. It was a transition. When you think about three years, it isn’t that big of a deal, but it is for a young kid. So I didn’t quite have the experience that they did. So that was the development of it. To play in a game back in those days, freshmen were ineligible for varsity sports. So you’re sitting out a year. And that’s very difficult for somebody who has played hockey all the time, especially in Denver because there wasn’t any other place to play because there was no other competition. You play until Christmas and it’s a wasted year really. So that’s kind of how I got down there.”

What was it like to play for Murray Armstrong?

“Murray was an exceptional motivator, and I’m going to bring a little bit more into the story. Dolli’s former husband, Tony Schneider was from Regina. Tony died in 1997 and he played junior hockey with the Regina Pats Canadians. So they were the power of Western Canada when Tony was playing for them, and their coach was Murray Armstrong. I think Murray actually tried to recruit Tony to go down to Denver, but he turned pro and played quite awhile in the pros with the Western Hockey League and the American Hockey League. So he was a premiere player. When I graduated from college, I ended up playing with the Calgary Spurs, which was a senior “A” team. When we played, it was very competitive hockey league. We played in the same league as the Canadian National Hockey team and the coach of that team was Tony Schneider. So there’s a history there when I look at Murray and Tony and Dolli and Joyce (Peers’ late wife) and myself. It’s really pretty impressive we go back a long time ago. I remember walking into the dressing room and the first time talking to Tony. He said, “You played for Murray.” And I said “yeah, what a guy.” And he was.

Murray developed more than hockey skills. He developed the will within people and he tried to advance the education, more than being just an athlete, which when you looked at it at the time, you really realized what was going on. He was developing young men and that was really what he was trying to do. He was very competitive and recruited good hockey players into a good program. When you back and look at the 1960s, the University of Denver was certainly the powerhouse in that decade.

The four years that I was there, we went to the Final Four in my freshman year, which I didn’t play. In my sophomore year, we went to the Final Four again. In my junior year, we didn’t go, but in my senior year we did get to the Final Four again. So three out of my four years at DU, we were there. Then in ’68 and ’69, they had won it (NCAA Championship), so the 60s were really, really powerful for the University of Denver. And it was because of Murray. He exposed us to a lot of things like business people in Denver and to meeting the right people and that type of thing. He advocated academic skills.

He would come in and say, “well, you guys should be taking some of these Dale Carnegie classes in how to present yourself or in how to do speed reading or stuff like that.” Then you’d kind of look at him and say, “I’m from Selkirk (Manitoba), what the hell do I know?” So Murray did those types of things and he would make you start thinking a little bit, which was good.”

“And that’s why we have the Dale Carnegie books at home,” added Peers’ wife, Dolli.

If you speak to anyone who has ever played for Murray Armstrong, the two things you always hear about are the new and often unusual words that he introduced to his players, and the sometime odd (and hilarious) situations that he and/or his players found themselves in. For Peers it was no different, and in the case of the latter, it involved a box of hats.

“Well 'precipitous' is the one (new word) that always come out. Murray would say, “You have to check very precipitously.” The guys would then be looking around and saying “Christ, we saw the names on the backs of the jerseys and he ain’t playing today.” (Laughs) So he did that and then he would tell us “you all have to expand yourselves.” So he would have us do things like going through the dictionary and learn a (new) word a day, which is an old story. Murray was uneducated and didn’t have a formal education at all. He grew up in Regina and became a hockey player, but he tried to improve himself all the time. He was an immaculate dresser, always had the suit and a little Biltmore cap on. And there’s a good story about the hats.

It was my freshman year and I had made a campus visit. There were three recruits out of Winnipeg that were also supposed to come down, and two of those guys ended up going to North Dakota that following year. So I went up to Winnipeg and was supposed to get on a train coming down to Denver. I showed up at the house of Brian Strimbiski and Bob Stoyko and they said, “We’re not going.” So I said, “what do you mean your not going?” Then they said, “Nope, we’re not going. We got a better offer from North Dakota for next year and we’re going to pass on Denver.” Then I said “your loss.” So anyway, Strimbiski had this box of hats. It was a cardboard box, and I asked him “what’s that?” He said “they’re Biltmore Stetsons.” And at that time Biltmores were made in Guelph, Ontario and they had a junior hockey team that had won a couple of times and they were called the Guelph Biltmores. And Murray was a Western distributor in Canada for Biltmore hats. So he was getting a bunch of these hats down to Denver to give to all of his cronies, friends and everything like that. So I inherited these hats and here I am a kid of 18 and didn’t know what the hell was going on. So I get on this train going down to Denver thinking that I was going with two buddies and ended up going all by myself. So they would check customs and immigration right on the train. So I’m sitting in the car and this guy comes by and asked me where I was going. I got out my student visa and then he asked “do you have any luggage?” and I said, “Yes, it’s back in the luggage compartment.” Then he asked if I had anything to declare. Being naïve I said “no, but I’ve got a bunch of hats.” He then asks “what kind of hats?” I said, “I don’t know. I’m taking them for the coach.” So then he says, “Oh, lets go down and have a look at those.” So I said ok and we walked down to the baggage car there and he opens up the box. Then he says “oh, they’re nice, expensive hats, but you can’t bring those in (to the US).” Then I said to him “but they’re not mine!” Then he says to me “when you get into the Denver, this guy that you’re talking about, this Murray Armstrong is going to have to pay duty on them.” So I said, “fine, I don’t care.” So the train gets into Union Station in Denver and Murray’s waiting there. So then Murray says to me “Bob, how was your trip down?” and I told him that it was great. Then Murray asks, “Did you bring my hats?” I said, “Yeah Murray, but I think there’s a problem.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “well, I got stopped and you’ve got some paperwork to do.” So then he says, “Well, we’ll see about that!” So Murray goes over to the clearinghouse area and everything. And Murray was quite loquacious. So the next thing I know, this guy at the baggage claim was saying to Murray “yes sir, yes sir, I’m sorry sir” and then he just gave him the hats! (Laughs) And I don’t know what the heck Murray had said to him, but he got his hats. So that was the first time that I knew this guy has something to offer. He’s obviously well known and articulate. He was able to finesse or whatever without being dishonest. He wasn’t dishonest, but I think he said that they were gifts. So by the code and everything, you can bring in gifts. He said, “I’m not reselling them or anything like that. I paid for them, so these are for my friends.” And I think that’s how he got around it. He’s quite a guy.”

Peers, like the many other players who played for Armstrong, has tremendous respect for his former coach that extends far beyond the confines of the hockey rink.

“I think that you learned the work ethic and to be honest to yourself’ from Murray. He taught us there are horizons beyond hockey. I think that’s what he had instilled in most of his players. As far as his coaching methods, I think Murray was ahead of his time. A lot of the innovations that he had and even the rules that he had were. The offside rule was changed about 20 years ago or something like that, but Murray used to use that back in the 60s. Then there were the tricks and all those types of things that are part of what they call “the little things of the game.” Murray was a strong believer in the fundamentals and he worked at that. So those are the things that I remember about Murray. He would instill things like work a little harder and be a little bit more dedicated. I think a lot of the skilled players that aren’t dedicated become easy players, and easy players never win. So those are the fundamentals and the little things that he instills in you and it carries over to the work ethic, whether it’s in the business world or at home or whatever. Be honest and talk to people about those things.”

One similar attribute that Peers sees in both Armstrong and current head coach George Gwozdecky is the great interest that both of these men have taken in their players.

“I don’t know George that well, but every time I’ve talked to him I’ve been impressed. So yeah, I’d say that. DU has gone through several types of coaches and I’ve never really got that close to any of them, but George certainly has the best record since Murray. I’ve talked to him and I think he’s dedicated. He takes great interest in his players and has them in the right frame of mind as Murray did. So what I know of him, I would say that he does. I think George has gone through a bit of a transformation too from when he first came on to the scene. From what I’ve heard, he used to be a bit introverted and didn’t get out much to the media nor came out to talk to the alums. But he does a very good job of that now. Whenever I’ve run into him, boy, he’s got time for you, and I think that’s important.”

A characteristic that is synonymous with DU hockey is the fierce rivalry with Colorado College. While many fascinating stories have emerged over the years between the two programs, one game that took place at the Broadmoor in February 1966 may go down as perhaps the most symbolic of this long-standing rivalry. And one of the players at the center of it all was Peers.

“Well, it was a black part I guess. “Badger” Bob Johnson was the first or second year coach at Colorado College at the time. This was a league game that took place before the playoffs. At the end of the second period of this game, there was an incident between myself and another (CC) player named Davey Palm. It broiled into one of those brouhahas and the I-did-you-did sort of thing, so I ended up getting a penalty and he didn’t. Really, it’s hard to explain but it makes you more mad because it should’ve been both of us off, but instead one guy gets penalized and the other doesn’t. I felt that he was laughing at me. Of course everything is subjective. So at the end of the period, I skated over and drilled him and he fell to the ice. I pummeled him and everything and then the crowd went crazy. They brought out the fire hoses and pushed people back into their seats, but we finished the game. The interesting thing, and it’s because all of these stories come out, is that we were all talking about it in the dressing room today when Murray always gave this little speech. And I’m a bit of a locker room talker, so somebody asked me “Peers, what was your most memorable thing about Murray?” and I said “well, the first one is he used to say you go out on the ice with a silent resolve, so that you don’t leave your game in the dressing room. You go out with the intent to win and play hard.” But then I said “actually the one game that I remember the most was after that DU-CC game down at the Broadmoor.” This incident happened at the end of the second period, so there was still a period to play. They didn’t know what to do. They finally restored order and Jim Eagle was throwing buckets of water up into the stands. So it was one of those things where it was almost out of control at that time. So I got a game misconduct. At that time, usually when you get one of those, you go to the dressing room, shower and go back out into the stands. So the team was going out to start the third and Murray hung back and he said to me “Bob, you know what? I think it would be best if you just kind of stayed in here for the whole period.” (Laughs) So I said ok.

The incident happened in 65-66 in my senior year, and anybody that I’ve ever talked to about it always says, “Oh, you’re the guy.” Anyway, DU and CC didn’t play against each other the following year. We did play them again in the playoffs and for that game, Davey Palm and myself weren’t allow to play. At the end of the season, they sat down and I think it was CC that wanted to make a statement. They said that because of this incident, they felt that there should have been some type of sanction on Denver. And the sanction was that they refused to play Denver in WCHA play for one season. So that’s kind of the story.”

One of the more charming recollections that Peers shared about his life was how he came to know his wife, Dolli, whom he married last summer. If the DU Pioneers ever had ultimate hockey couples, Bob and Dolli Peers would certainly be amongst them.

“Well, we’ve known each other since 1966, and Bob was playing for my first husband,” Dolli began. “We were a couple of friends that did a lot of social things together. Tony passed away in 1997 and (Bob’s former wife) Joyce passed away in 2003. So when we started, I was a little concerned about it because I had been through this and wanted to keep in touch with him and see how he was doing. So we started having coffee and coffee led to lunch and lunch led to supper. So it just kind of started out as a friendship and progressed into something more. Then last year, we got married last summer just before we came down here. The Snoopy Tournament was a part of our honeymoon. (Laughs) That’s what everyone said. They said “only a hockey player would take his wife to a tournament for their honeymoon.

We’ve been very fortunate because we’ve melded our families together and we know each other’s backgrounds and the history. I know that my family thought that it was great because they knew who Bob was.”

“It’s good a story really because we have a lot of mutual friends and a lot of mutual interests,” Peers added. “There are no surprises. Neither one of us were really looking for a relationship. We really weren’t. I think the friendship grew into something more. We said “hey, there’s a like here and why live by yourself?

“One of the interesting things is that my first husband was a little on the gruff side and he used to say to me that one of the people he really liked and admired was Bob,” said Dolli. “I’ve often said to the kids, “well, if your dad could’ve picked a husband for me, it would’ve probably been Bob because they both played the same type of hockey. The same style and they both played for Murray.”

“We both played for Murray and I can’t overemphasize that,” Peers added. “We were the same type of individuals that he (Murray) had developed. We had the same outlook on life. We’re both volatile on the ice, which I think is not the way we are off the ice either.”

Prior to getting married, Peers was thrown a stag party, and as Dolli explains there were plenty of laughs to go around courtesy of her soon-to-be husband.

“They were going to have a stag for him for our wedding and one of his best friends got this thing organized. There was this local fellow that was a comedian and quite well known. So Bob’s friend hired him to come in and put on this little show. And I’m hearing this secondhand of course because I wasn’t there. Anyway this guy is trying to perform and whatever he said, Bob’s got an answer. And, my sons-in law said, “Oh my God, he far, far outperformed this comedian.”

“Yeah, but I’d been drinking,” interjected Peers.

“So that was sort of the talk,” continued Dolli. “So they said “oh yeah, it was quite the stag too.” And this guy (comedian) finally gave up and just said, “Ok, you win. You’re funnier than me, so I’ll just sit.” (Laughs) So Bob does have a very good sense of humor. He is just one of the really nice guys and that’s what people say about him.”

Peers and his wife have a combined five children and 11 grandchildren between them.

“I think when we talk about what we’ve brought to each other in this marriage, Bob often says to me “well, you’ve brought me a family” because I come from a large family,” said Dolli. “I’m one of eight children and have all of these grandchildren. Bob doesn’t have all of that, so one of the things that he’s said to me is that you brought a family to me. So it’s nice. The nice thing about my grandchildren too is that only one was born before my first husband had passed away. So the other seven only know Bob as their grandfather because they don’t know Tony. And the same goes with his family. They (Bob’s grandchildren) were born after Joyce died. Bob loves to tell everybody that he has 11 grandkids.”

Peers’ other family, the DU hockey family, is also very close to his heart. So what is his fondest DU memory?

“I’m going to give the hokey answer and that is having had the opportunity to go there. Having that opportunity to attend, be educated and play something that I love would be the high mark.”

Whether it is his comical side off the ice or his heated exchanges on the ice or both that he’ll be best remembered for, there will never again be a player quite like Bob Peers. He is, after all, a DU Pioneers Original.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Donovan Impresses Islander Scout At Camp

From: Newsday.com
by Katie Strang


Just got off the phone with Assistant GM/Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski, who gave me an update on Islanders prospects Aaron Ness and Matt Donovan's performance at the U.S. junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, NY

Jankowski, who watched both play in two intersquad games, said that while the Islanders have higher expectations for Ness, who the team drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft, Donovan was the one to make the impression.

"We have lower expectations for Matt [compared to Ness] because he was a 4th-round pick and is a guy that will develop over the years, but he was a pleasant surprise for us," Jankowski said.

Jankowski said Donovan, a defenseman who will begin this year at the University of Denver, showed great poise with the puck and exhibited significant improvement from the past couple of years.

"We have a lot of patience for a guy like Matt, who is just going into college and has a decent amount of time to develop as a player while working with high-quality coaches and playing against tough opponents," Jankowski said.

Ness, a defenseman for University of Minnesota, made less of an impression.

"Aaron was fine. He wasn't anything special, but he showed his ability to create offense off the rush and make a first pass," Jankowski said.

"I'm not gonna lie to you and say Aaron was great, but he displayed that he could play at a high level and made a statement by surviving the cuts to play against Russia."

Jankowski predicted that both Ness and Donovan have a chance to crack the roster, but that Ness may have a slightly better shot because of his name and accomplishments. Jankowski was pleased however, that Donovan's play is earning him consideration.

"Matt certainly put himself in the mix," Jankowski said. "We knew he had high-end skill, but the most important thing was that he could show that at a higher level, which he did."

Don Cameron: The Man Behind DU's Alumni Team

(above) Don Cameron and wife Marie celebrate another Snoopy Tournament championship

Editor's Note: The second of LetsGoDU's four-part series focuses on the man who has been the cornerstone of the DU's Over-60 Alumni Team at the Snoopy Tournament for the last several years. Don Cameron gives us a glimpse into how this particular Denver Pioneers team was conceived and what makes it so special.

See Part I: Jim Wiste

Exclusive to LetsGoDU

By DJ Powers

Staff Writer - NCAA
Hockey's Future (http://www.hockeysfuture.com)

Future Considerations (http://www.futureconsiderations.ca)


If you ever meet Don Cameron, the first thing you will notice in speaking with him is the unyielding passion that he has for the University of Denver and the Pioneers hockey team.

And he makes no apologies for it either.

“Cammy” as he is affectionately called by friends and teammates alike, has been the driving force behind the DU Snoopy team since about 2003. While the job of getting this extraordinary group of predominately 60-something-year-old players together is relatively easy today, it wasn’t always that way.

“I think it has gotten easier. I think it gets easier because we’re getting older and the commitments aren’t the same. We don’t have the work commitments that we had in the past. Guys are able to get time away from work. I suppose one of the bigger challenges is that guys are leaving behind things like work or family or whether they have other things that they do, this isn’t maybe their highest priority, but they do make an effort to be here. If you need 15 players, then you have to be able to draw from probably 30 guys that are capable. I think if you look at our teams over the last six years, you’re gonna have maybe five guys that have repeated. But there are always some new faces and some guys will skip a few years then come back. Our nucleus now has more depth than there has been. It seems like we’ll be able to put together a team a lot easier going forward.”

So just how did Cameron come to join then organize the DU Snoopy team?

“The first year of the 40-year-old division, I came and played with the what was then the Denver group (Stars). It wasn’t the DU team per se, but it was the DU guys. The main guys were Jack Smith and Bill Abbott. And they came for a number of years. Anyway, when I turned 40, I came and played with them and had a lot of fun. They had other DU guys come over the years. So it was just hockey in general in Denver. I guess the tradition got started with Smith and Abbott, and then the other teams kept coming out again. Then it looked like it was dropping off. So I thought that I would make an effort to get a lot of the guys that I played with to come out here and see if we could put a team together, which we did. As you know, this has been going on for about six or seven years, and our nucleus are the DU Pioneers. Out of the 15 players on this year’s team, nine of us had played together about 45 years ago. It’s just almost a pilgrimage. Everyone looks forward to it and you’ve been able to experience some of the fun that we have. We all have good roots at DU, but we don’t get to enjoy them often enough. It’s always fun to see your old friends and the stories get embellished, but at the same time they were good the first time around, so they have to be good forever (Laughs).”

Since its inception, DU has learned a lot about how to put together such a team for this one-of-a-kind tournament from their nemesis, the University of Michigan. But one page that they would like to take out of the Wolverines Snoopy Tournament playbook is fielding other teams in different divisions. For the last few years (with the exception of this year), the University of Michigan has sent two teams, one in the 60A Division and the other in the 50A Division, to the Snoopy Tournament. Cameron hopes that one day his team could do the same to keep this particular DU hockey tradition alive for years to come.

“I would really like to see us getting some of our younger alumni working on putting a team together. The University of Michigan has a wonderful tradition that they have had (at the Snoopy Tournament) and they’ve had two or three teams that have played in this tournament over the years. So it would be nice if DU could do the same because it’s a wonderful tournament to play in. I think there is some guys like Judd Stauss, who was something like the Class of 2000 and captain of the team that is a good guy that guys group around. So if we can get him to work on a bunch of guys, I think that would be good. I think once they experience it, they’ll have something to come back to. And again, they don’t have to make it every year. But you probably have 40 or 50 guys that you can draw from. So if you can get a nucleus, you can work from there. There are some common things like DU and our days there, and then of course hockey. So it would be nice because as much as we enjoy it and are as old as we are doing it, we’re not going to be able to it forever.”

Another thing that Cameron would like to see are more college alumni teams in the Snoopy Tournament. Each year, the tournament features many former collegians playing on teams in every age division and level. In addition to DU and Michigan, this year’s Snoopy Tournament also featured former players from schools such as Boston College, Boston University, Clarkson, Cornell, Minnesota, Michigan State and Yale. Cameron feels that being able to meet other alumni teams from schools, particularly those in the WCHA such as Michigan Tech or North Dakota would make the Snoopy Tournament not only more enjoyable for all of its collegiate participants, but also for the many legions of alumni and fans of these schools as well.

“The rivalry that we have with the University of Michigan is really good. We know a lot of the guys from playing against them in college and some of them might have lived in Denver for a time, so some of us may have played with them. You play hard (against each other) and play to win. It was funny because one time I ran into one of their guys named Jerry Andal, whom I had played with and against forever. He says “damn it Cammy is that you?” and I said “damn right it’s me.” (Laughs) And then a little later it’s like gotcha! So that’s part of the spirit of this thing after all the years. As competitive as it is, we all have a lot of respect for each other. What intrigues me most about Michigan is that they have a totally endowed program. Red Berenson has been pretty responsible for making that happen. How he’s done that, I don’t know. But we certainly have the wear with all in our alumni with maybe the right approach be able to accomplish the same thing. It will take time, but it takes a lot of common ground to build it. I believe we have that, but we just haven’t tapped into that yet. We haven’t tapped their pockets yet. I think we need to tap into the fun side first, and then the pockets will follow.

We all played college hockey, so that’s our commonality. A lot of us played junior hockey and played in different places. So we run into the same people. But those college years are some of our most formative years and they were the most memorable. Michigan had their successes and we had ours. We’re proud of who we are and they’re proud of who they are. If North Dakota or Michigan Tech or even some of the eastern teams would bring teams to this tournament, then that would great. You seem to dig a little deeper when you’re skating as an alum. It’s a pride thing.”

Denver is a very special place to Cameron. He continues to make his home there and his wife Marie is a DU alum herself. And while he has strong ties to the current Pioneers team, it is the Snoopy Tournament team that is closest to his heart.

“Sure, it’s about the hockey, the reunion and all of that, but if you can stay healthy doing something that you enjoy, why wouldn’t you continue doing it? And it’s not just healthy physically. There’s a lot of stimulation here and it comes in so many ways. Everyone has had interesting careers and you get hear about them and enjoy hearing what they’ve been able to do in their lives. It’s just a great experience. Well, you look forward to that experience. You have a common bond. It’s hockey and it’s DU. Everybody has enjoyed some interesting experiences, whether it be as professional hockey players or business guys or teachers. There’s a broad spectrum, and the guys love what they’ve done. They’re proud of themselves and we’re all proud of them. It’s part of the deal.”

Talking about the DU Snoopy team also brings out the sentimental side of Cameron. When asked about still wearing the Pioneers colors 40-plus years after leaving the university and what people should know about the DU Snoopy team, Cameron struggled a bit to get the words out while trying to hold back a few tears. But when he did, it was simple, direct and really quite eloquent.

“I think the pride never leaves. You’re just very proud. You don’t let anybody down because you just can’t. You just can’t do that. As DU hockey players, we learned about being quality people and we can certainly count on each other for anything. It’s one thing to count on them (teammates) on the ice, but to be able to count on them in life is something else. And that’s certainly has been a part of it. I think people should know that we’re a group of people who enjoy each other. We just have a lot of caring for each other and we’ll go through walls for each other.”

Cameron’s tireless work and energy, along with those of his wife, have been a big reason why the Pioneers continue to participate in the Snoopy Tournament each year. While the close-knit family bonds that have been forged through the friendships and battles are quite evident, what is less so is how the team comes together each year. And it isn’t always a one-man job either. The efforts of other players such as Bob Peers and Wayne Smith have made Cameron’s job as the team’s primary organizer that much easier, especially when it comes to finding the so-called “fill-ins”. While the ultimate goal is to have the Snoopy team made up exclusively of DU alumni, it is often easier said than done. The DU Snoopy team has had numerous non-DU players over the years that have come and gone. Yet they continue to be a part of the extended DU hockey family, which oddly enough includes a former CC Tiger.

This Pioneers team is truly the sum of all of its unique parts, but one thing is for certain – it is very, very difficult to imagine a DU Snoopy Tournament team without Cammy. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a teammate of his who thinks otherwise.

Friday, August 14, 2009

DU Legend & Campus Lounge Owner Jim Wiste

(above) DU Alum Jim Wiste pictured with Joanie at the Snoopy Senior Hockey Tournament this summer is Santa Rosa, California

Editor's Note: As a lead-in to the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration of Denver Pioneers hockey, LetsGoDU begins a four-part series comprised of stories coming out of last month’s Snoopy Tournament in Santa Rosa, CA in which the DU alumni team successfully defended their Marcie (60A) Division championship.

In this first installment, Jim Wiste (DU '69) shares his insights with Hockeys Future writer D.J. Powers on a variety of topics including playing for the legendary Murray Armstrong, current head coach George Gwozdecky, and how he came to own one of the DU hockey community’s favorite gathering spots, the Campus Lounge. The "Campus" located near DU, is annually ranked as one of the best Neighborhood Bars in Denver by Westword.

Exclusive to LetsGoDU
By DJ Powers

Q: Let’s start off with DU Hockey's upcoming 60th Reunion Celebration. Are you planning to be there and what are some of your thoughts about it?

JW: Oh yes! I think it’s going to be fantastic. It’s 60 years when hockey started in Denver. A guy by the name of Doug McKinnon is going to drop the first puck. He was DU’s first captain. I think there are two players from the original team that I think was in ’49. There were seven coaches and I think there are seven NCAAs (championships). I think it’s going to be great for the university and great for the players to come back. We had a 50-year reunion obviously ten years ago and now this is our 60th year. I don’t know if there’ll ever be another one just because all of the coaches may not be alive much longer that have coached (over the years).

Q: How did you come to play for the University of Denver?

JW: Well, in those days it was really surprising because Murray was the only person that recruited that also coached. He would look in the papers to see who was doing well and then he would maybe make an appointment to see your parents. He made one trip up to Saskatchewan and would come into my living room and sit down. Then he would say to my father “you know, if he were my son this is what I would suggest that he should do.” (Laughs) You know, he kind of hurt the university because his recruiting budget was probably only about 3,4, or 500 dollars and he drove everywhere. Back then it was a handshake. You didn’t sign a Letter of Intent. I didn’t know if I had scholarship until I came down and found out that I was in the dorms and that my books were free. So I thought ‘oh, maybe I have a scholarship.’ But now, it’s like everything else. Now, they make big thing out of a (player) signing with all of the legality of it and other teams trying to get somebody. But back then it wasn’t anything complicated. So it was just Murray saying that he wants a player on his team and he tells him. Other than that, it wasn’t anything fancy.

Q: What was it like playing for Murray?

JW: Well, Murray was kind of a legend in his own time because he had good teams and was the best motivator that I’ve ever seen. I played pro for ten years and I’d never seen a better motivator. Murray could motivate you. He was a salesman in his younger days and he could sell you. He would grab you by the hand as you walked out of the dressing room before a really important game and he would look into your eyes, be spitting into your face and say “good luck to you, son.” Then you would go out there and as we (players) used to say the piss is running down your leg during the national anthem, so you’d better be ready for the game. When Murray motivated you, he was good at motivating you. They only had one coach, so it was hard to teach a lot of players. We worked on fundamentals and did skating drills and different other things, which were really important, but not like it is now. They have film that they can break down everything and they can tell you if your little pinky is out of joint. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but you can back it up.

Murray was also respected. Out of respecting him, you worked hard for him. He was a man’s man. I think he was honest with his players and he worked you hard. Now I think the players have got it so soft. But I think the players today will tell you that they have a broader variety of things to do. They’ll do weight programs and running and so forth, whereas we were just mainly on the ice.

Q: What were some of the best things that Murray had taught you that you were able to take with you and apply to yourself as both a hockey player and as an individual?

JW: I think the integrity for being an honest person. He always used to have this saying that you could look yourself in the mirror in the morning when you’re shaving and you’ve given your best. That’s kind of one of the sayings that he had. There’s a book out that somebody wrote on Murray’s sayings because he always had these sayings. Like if you got hurt, he would always say ‘tape an aspirin to it. It’s a long way from your heart. You’re ok.’ And these were things that we all put into our repertoire and still say to each other. If you had a question, Murray would say ‘honest to God, Jim?’ George (Gwozdecky) has done a great job with the players too, but they’re two different eras. And people try to compare the two and you can’t. George has got to have guys out there looking for new players. He has to have help. Murray couldn’t have done this.

Q: What are some of the similarities do you personally see between Murray and George?

JW: I think George has great respect by his players. He has great character and doesn’t put up with anything if there’s a problem. The team comes first to him, and Murray was like that too. Actually they’re both kind of a lot alike in a way. George has made a name for himself, won some NCAAs (championships), and has been one of the top five coaches (in the NCAA) for about the last four or five years. It’s hard to come into the situation that he did after Murray Armstrong, who was here for 25 years. But George has made his own niche and I think winning those championships were important. So I think George and Murray are lot alike in their characters.

Q: Obviously not any player can play at DU. It takes a special type of player that could not only play at DU but also succeed there. Players who’ve come here such as Rhett Rakhshani and Tyler Ruegsegger, and even recent former players like Gabe Gauthier and Adam Berkhoel had not only the talent, but have (or had) the character that made them fit so well into the DU system. In terms of character, how are these players similar to those that played at DU when you were there?

JW: I’m fortunate to be able to skate with them. I met Rhett Rakshani and can see why he’s the captain. Mark Rycroft when he was here at DU was like him (Rakhshani) too. So they’re no different from the players that played for Murray. The same kind of guys that play for George played for Murray. Both are character people, as well as other guys like J.P. Testwuide. It’s a fraternity and in those guys, you can see that they pick it up. Just looking at their skills on the ice, you can tell that they’re way better than we were. But we never got a chance to meet them through the old-timers hockey. When you look at a player on the ice, they’ve got a helmet on and a mask. And you hardly recognize them until their senior year. And now we get to see them in the dressing room. George has a deal where he’d have alumni come in and talk to the team. You ask him what he wants you to talk and he would say whatever you want. And he’d even open the door up. And we’ve all done that. Alot of the players (that are alumni) have. So I think that’s pretty good on George’s part that he would take the chance on allowing us to talk about anything to the team that we wanted, whether it be what it’s like to be a freshman or anything about hockey or about life. I think the players always enjoyed it because a lot of the older guys would have things to say. And I give George credit because that’s like saying ‘come into my bedroom and you can say what you want.’ He wasn’t afraid to open the door. That shows me that he is self-sufficient with his own operation. When you can say that, you’re not hiding anything because I can walk into the dressing room and say I think this or that. Now George would say ‘say what you want to say. I don’t care what you talk about, just talk about something.’ I’ve had a lot of my other (Snoopy) teammates do it and we’ve all approached it from different angles. Some have approached it on a humorous angle and some have approached it on a serious angle. Well, I think that brings character into it. So I give George credit for that. He’d just look at you and say ‘do what you want to do.’ I’ve talked to them (the team) a couple of times and depending on how well the team is doing or what’s happening, it’s hard to tell them when they’re in first place what they’re doing wrong. Yet when they’re struggling, it’s not my job to tell them what to do right because I’m not their coach, but George has opened up those doors and just told me to say what I want to say.

Q: Let’s shift gears here for a bit and talk about the Campus Lounge. How did that all come about?

JW: Well, when I finished hockey, I had played about ten years, I wanted to do well in something and had no idea. I really hadn’t done anything in ten years, so with my degree I thought it was tough, but I wanted to be my own boss. I’ve always loved the food business, and actually the Whites owned it. John White played for DU and I knew his dad pretty well. One day he skated with us and asked if he ever wanted to sell his business. Each time we skated, I’d talked about it a little more. And the funny thing about it was that I didn’t know a thing about the restaurant business. Maybe it was a good thing because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bought it. (Laughs) So that’s how I bought it and it’s been 33 years. It’s kind of nice because when I go and watch sports and talk sports, I’m fortunate to do something that I enjoy doing. Sure, there are a lot of tough things, but it’s been good to me. The DU people have been good to me. They’ve frequented my place. The faculty and other sports teams like the Boston Bruins or the Chicago Blackhawks would come in too. So that’s how I got into the business.

Q: I know that you had played professionally for a number of years. So what was it like making that huge jump from college to the pros?

JW: We were probably, and really and truly, the first college players to come out. There were players such as Keith Magnuson, Cliff Koroll, and myself, along with Tony Esposito with Chicago. College players never played in the NHL back then. Now it’s unbelievable. It was good and bad because players would take an extra run at you because you were a “college player” and maybe felt that you weren’t tough enough. They were jealous of you because you had a college education. So we were kind of the pioneers of that. I’m proud of that. Now you look down the roster and there’s I don’t know how many college kids that are in the NHL. It’s unbelievable. But we were really the first to come out. I think college players are more dedicated and I think they have a vision of what they want to do. I’m not downgrading the other guys, but that’s how much college hockey has come along too. Like when DU starts each year, they may have eight freshmen coming in and by the senior year they may have two or three because the rest have all turned pro already. So that shows the quality that they have and things like that. So we were kind of the pioneers on that end. I remember going to Chicago’s camp. We trained before we even went to camp and the other pros didn’t. We were in better shape and focused on what we were doing a little more. Now all of the pros do that. Maybe we helped them in a way that they didn’t know about because it’s an all-year job now. In the old days, you went to camp thinking that you could get into shape in about two or three weeks. Now these guys are practicing all the time.

Q: As an outsider, I have the opportunity to look at how you guys interact with one another both at the rink and away from it. And while all of you are friends and come from different mothers, you’re all brothers too.

JW: Well there’s an old saying that if you can’t be yourself around your friends, then they’re not your friends. If I can’t say what I want to say around my friends, then they’re not my friends. I might say the wrong things, but I can do it. Who else can I do it around? Who will forgive me or who will help me? So a lot of people look at us and say ‘you guys are kind of honest with each other.’ We’ll look at each other and say you’ve got this wrong in a joking way or you might say ‘you’re being an ass.’ (Laughs) So that’s the biggest compliment that you can pay your friends is to be yourself among them. And you know, it doesn’t come overnight. You have to gain that respect or have that respect to give. So I think we’ve done that and it’s carried on. At least I hope it has carried on. There have been a couple of hiccups along the way, but how can you have a program that doesn’t? When you’re on top, there’s nowhere to go but down a little bit. DU has been picked first this year and that’s the kiss of death in a way, but you know what? I’d rather be picked first than last. I think that shows the strength of our program too. We all go to the games and we all support them. The reunion is going to be great. I think it’s always tough too because we’re all at that part in our lives where we’re going to lose a few each year. So that’s tough.

Q: Would you say that “family” is a more generally accurate description of the team, especially in the way you guys support one another?

JW: Oh yeah, and we all are. We’re sitting there tonight, playing in the over-60 group, we all know that we can’t do the things that we used to do, but we’re just sitting there cheering each other on. If a guy gets hurt, we’re all concerned. We’re friends and we’re here because of that. There’s still that competitiveness. You can’t lose that because let’s face it you still want to win. If you can look into mirror and say that I gave it my best, then that’s all that matters. Even when I played pro, I remember one of the older pros that was our goalie say to me after we had been beaten 7-2, “I played the best that I could.” And I thought, he was right. He tried his best and did his best. If don’t play your best, then you’ve got a problem. Maybe you could say that I could’ve been in better shape or more prepared. But those go on in life and in business. So be prepared and be there. Hockey is no different than running a business. You’ve got to be organized and have leadership and do a lot of things, so those things carry on. I think they’re important. I’m fortunate enough to be here talking to you and say that I’m a Pioneer and I’m proud of it.

Q: In your personal opinion, how would define a Denver Pioneers hockey player?

JW: I would like to define him as dedicated, sincere, honest, hard working, and compatible with other people. Maybe we would like to have everything but we can’t. But I think a lot of those qualities are maybe 80 percent of what they are because if he isn’t then all the other guys would give him a hard time. Like maybe we would have a guy that’s a little bit of problem and we would all say ‘c’mon, you have to lighten up.’ (Laughs) We would govern ourselves. We’ve always done that. I think they still do that. So when you bump into a guy and if he’s a Pioneer, then he’s your friend. And if he needs help, you help him. If he needs some advice, then you give him some advice. And I think it’s sincere. So those are the things that you look upon as a Pioneer.

Q: What was the greatest memory that you took from your time at DU?

JW: I think winning an NCAA championship was a great memory. But I don’t like to say that everything is about winning because I know some guys that didn’t win. They always say that you’ve won an NCAA championship. That’s not really it. I think the friendships with guys like Cliff Koroll, Keith Magnuson and the guys that I met that I went to school with is a great memory. And it’s not just in hockey either. The people that I’ve met when my life changed and I couldn’t mention them all was the best thing that I’ve gotten out of it. So if you asked what the biggest thrill from hockey, I’d say winning the NCAA championship. They always say that what you can go back to is priceless, which are the friendships that we formed. And we’re all still good friends.