Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Hockey alums regroup on ice for Snoopy seniors tourney

Ask anyone who plays the sport of hockey what makes it so great and the reply you’ll likely get is the family bond that is born from the lifelong friendships forged through the many battles together.

While each hockey family is unique in its own way, you’d be hard pressed to find one as closely knit as the Denver Pioneers, who recently played in the weeklong Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (a.k.a. Snoopy’s Home Ice) in Santa Rosa, Calif., July 15 – 21.

No, these DU players don’t have names like Peter Mannino, Geoff Paukovich or Keith Seabrook. Instead, you’ll find names like Ron Grahame, Don Cameron and Bob Peers. It is a group of men that consists of mostly members of DU’s original hockey dynasty that played under the legendary Murray Armstrong.

Tournament history

The Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament, now in its 31st year, is the brainchild of the late Peanuts creator and hockey devotee Charles “Sparky” Schulz, who played in the tournament as a member of the Diamond Icers.

Since its inception in 1975, the tournament has been played every year except in 2001 and has drawn participants from across North America and around the world.

Tournament players range in age from 40 – 75 (with a few exceptions). The teams are placed in age divisions (40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70-plus) named after Peanuts characters. Each division includes four teams. If there is more than one division in a particular age group, then they are classified according to playing level, with “A” being the highest level. This year, the tournament featured 52 teams playing in 13 divisions.

Among those who have participated in this tournament over the years are many former National Hockey League players, including current University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson, former Philadelphia Flyers great Mel Bridgman and DU alumnus Cliff Koroll.

The Denver Centennial Stars

The Denver Pioneers — originally called the Denver Centennial Stars —were among the tournament’s original teams. In their inaugural appearance, they finished third in their division.

“We were called the Denver (Centennial) Stars before we were the Pioneers,” Peers says. “We became the Pioneers four years ago in 2004.”

This year, the Denver team captured silver in the 60 – 64 “Marcie” Division.

The driving force behind the Pioneers team is “Cammy” Cameron, who has played with the Denver team for more than two decades. Peers, another longtime Denver player, has been instrumental in the recruiting for the team.

The idea behind the Denver team was derived from the original University of Michigan team (now known as the 60s) that the Pioneers competed against for a number of years. Cameron says he would like to continue to build the Denver Pioneers team from within the DU hockey alumni community.

“Ultimately, we want to raise money for the DU hockey program,” he says. “It allows us to give back to the program. It’s evolving and all of us on the team feel good about what we’re doing.

“What I would like to see us do is to somewhat emulate what Michigan has been able to do. They have a good number of their guys who are alumni and they have some ringers that they’ve brought in,” he adds. “When you see the Michigan team all together with their fans and the camaraderie that they have, it’s pretty special. We feel that we have the same thing. Our camaraderie takes a backseat to no one.”

While the majority of players are DU alumni, some were brought in from other teams and leagues.

One of those is Bill Goodacre, who once played for DU’s archrival, the loathed Colorado College Tigers.

Goodacre, though, isn’t your average Tiger.

“I love the DU guys. They’re all great,” Goodacre says. “It’s a heckuva compliment that they asked me to play with them.”

Moments to remember

While there were many light-hearted moments throughout the week, there were also a few that made you take pause. The most moving was when Cliff Koroll spoke about his best friend and former teammate, Keith “Maggy” Magnuson, who was killed in an automobile accident in 2003.

“He would’ve loved to play in this tournament,” Koroll said. “Our hockey careers paralleled each other’s because we both played in the Saskatchewan Junior League together, then at DU and then again with the Chicago Blackhawks. We were closer than brothers.”

“For me, playing with these guys that I didn’t have a chance to play with, and learning from them and about their skills and their reputations is the best part about it,” says goaltender Ron Grahame, the youngest member of the team.

“The fact that we’re still alive for the next one is a good thing,” says Blake Emery. “Hopefully we’re all here next year, because once you get past 60, some of us are on borrowed time.”

One of the most memorable events was the Wednesday game between DU and their tournament nemesis, the University of Michigan. Since becoming the Pioneers, DU has beaten the Wolverines only one once, so revenge was very much on the minds of the Pioneers.

In the stands near the players benches was the Michigan cheering section, complete with choreographed cheers, a chorus of kazoos playing “(Hail to) the Victors,” and an obnoxiously squeaky noisemaker.

Sitting in the stands across the ice and not to be outdone was the DU cheering section — a slightly smaller but no less raucous group proudly clad in crimson and gold jerseys and waving matching pom-poms. The Pioneers original 1968 national championship banner was draped on the wall behind them for all to see.

Both cheering sections had no shortage of enthusiasm or energy, and insults directed at the other team were abundant.

The scene on the ice was electric. This was the game that both teams wanted equally to win and it showed. Short of a player ejection and maybe an all-out brawl, it had just about everything that one would expect from a fierce game between two of college hockey’s most celebrated teams. There was a lot of end-to-end action, great goaltending, many goals scored and of course, some bad blood.

Pioneer pride

The time spent with this group of remarkable men, along with their wives and girlfriends, was about far more than just getting a DU hockey history lesson. It was about having a better understanding of and appreciation for what it means to be alive and to be a Denver Pioneer. It’s the preservation of a storied tradition that started over two generations ago. It’s about the passion and respect for the game, the team and each other. It’s about the camaraderie and the competitive spirit within.

Perhaps Grahame summed it up best – “Pioneer Pride.”

That’s what it’s all about. And to the men who don the DU colors in this tournament each year, that’s the way it should be. Anything less would be unacceptable.

This article originally appeared on, where you can read more about the Snoopy tournament. Reprinted with permission.

2007 DU Pioneers Senior Hockey Tournament Roster

#1 Ron Grahame (DU 1969 – 73)
#2 Wayne Smith (DU 1963 – 66)
#3 Bob Peers (DU 1963 – 66)
#4 Bob Brawley
#5 Bob McDowell
#7 Bill Goodacre
#8 Blake Emery
#9 Peter McEwen
#10 Cliff Koroll (DU 1965 – 68)
#11 Jim Fieldy
#12 Don Cameron (DU 1964 – 67)

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