By pure coincidence, Andy Gambucci once sat next to and engaged in conversation with the legendary Jack Dempsey on a flight to Denver from Syracuse, N.Y. The chance meeting inspired Gambucci to visit a small museum dedicated to the “Manassa Mauler” some years later while traveling in Southern Colorado.
Little did Gambucci suspect at the time that a day would arrive when he’d joined Dempsey (inducted in 1986) in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest student-athletes ever to represent tiny Colorado College, a school whose enrollment never reached 2,000 until earlier in the current millennium, the native of Eveleth, MN, still may be better known in the Mile High City and northern reaches of the state for what he did after his playing career.
But Gambucci, who went on to work as a referee in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for more than two decades, would not have won too many popularity contests back then. He once had a pep band at the old University of Denver Arena removed for playing “Three Blind Mice,” was hit over the head with a purse by an elderly lady in the stands, and carried from the ice a live piglet with his name painted on it. “I really wanted to take him home to my kids,” recalls Gambucci, now 85, “but some guy stole him and I was heartbroken… But, really, I took it all with a sense of humor.”
There’s no disputing that earlier in life Gambucci was a fierce competitor at CC, graduating in 1953 as the last of the school’s “three-sport athletes.” Remembered best for his exploits in hockey, he also was a standout center fielder in baseball and running back in football — a holy terror on the gridiron where, as a senior in 1952, he broke the legendary Dutch Clark’s school record by scoring 16 touchdowns and finished fourth nationally in scoring despite coach William Heiss’ habit of taking him out of most games early. “I’d score two or three quick ones, then get pulled out. Some games, I’d just go up and shower,” Gambucci recalled. Nevertheless, he emerged as Rocky Mountain Conference MVP and a unanimous all-RMC selection that fall.
On the ice, in addition to helping the Tigers reach the NCAA playoffs in each of his first three seasons (they won a national title in 1950, his freshman year), he skated on the 1952 United States Olympic Team that claimed a Silver Medal in Oslo, Norway.
At Colorado College, despite breaking a leg midway through his first year and missing nearly another entire season while competing internationally, Gambucci produced 91 career points (62 goals, 29 assists). He has been inducted twice into the CC Athletics Hall of Fame, individually in 2004 and earlier, in 1998, as a member of the 1950 NCAA championship squad.
A Colorado Springs resident since 1949, successful businessman and supporter of countless community endeavors spanning seven decades, Gambucci also was elected to the Colorado Springs Hall of Fame’s 11th class of 2010. Now he’s come full circle.
Remembered best for his exploits in hockey, he also was a standout center fielder in baseball and running back in football.