Athletics & Recreation / DU History / History

Excellence on Ice: DU celebrates 60 years of Pioneers hockey

Keith Magnuson

Keith Magnuson was a two-time All-American at DU and led the Pioneers to the national title in 1968 and 1969. Photo: DU Archives/Athletics Department

Football may have left DU in 1961, but Pioneers hockey more than filled the gap, going from an athletic also-ran in the late 1940s to one of the country’s most talked-about college programs in the 1960s. The DU hockey program, which began in 1949, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The Pioneers are tied for second all-time in NCAA Division I wins with seven NCAA Championships, including back-to-back wins in 1960–61, 1968–69 and 2004–05.

DU battles archrival Colorado College every year for the Gold Pan, a trophy that goes to the winner of the annual series between the two local teams. (CC leads 10-6 in 16 years of Gold Pan competition.)

As part of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association the Pioneers also have won 11 regular season championships (MacNaughton Cup) and 15 playoff championships (Broadmoor Trophy).

Many Pioneers have gone on to play in the National Hockey League, including Chicago Blackhawks great Keith Magnuson (BSBA ’69), Hockey Hall-of-Famer Glenn Anderson (attd. 1979; played for the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers) and recent standouts Paul Stastny (attd. 2004–06; Colorado Avalanche) and Matt Carle (attd. 2003–06; Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks). In 2006, Carle became the first DU player to win the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, an annual honor given to the top NCAA men’s hockey player.

Under coaches such as Vern Turner, Neil Celley, Ralph Backstrom and the legendary Murray Armstrong, the Pioneers played on the ice in the DU Arena until 1999, when Magness Arena was completed. In 2004 the Pioneers had their most emotional victory, winning the school’s first NCAA hockey championship in 35 years in memory of former All-American Magnuson, who died in a car accident in December 2003.

“Any program that has success, there is a certain culture that is developed through the years that’s passed from one player to the next,” says current coach George Gwozdecky, who joined the Pioneers in 1994. “There’s a tremendous amount of pride in the program that each and every player helped build on.

“[Fifty years] is a long time for any program to be around, and to be able to have the continual success that this program has had over the years, it says a lot not only about the commitment from the athletes and students but from the University in general.”

Watch a video from the hockey reunion and read more on DU Today.

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