By Jim Benton, Sportswriter, retired
George Gwozdecky, a hockey coaching icon at theUniversity of Denver, is being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame this year accompanied with a bundle of memories as the Pioneers’ coach.
The 66-year-old Gwozdecky was head coach at DU for 19 seasons, compiled
a 443-267-64 record and won NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005. The Pioneers won at
least 20 games in 16 of the 19 seasons he coached at DU.
He has a 592-390-85 record as a collegiate head coach.
“To be able to see our program continue to rise, build and get better and see some
of our assistant coaches move on to take over programs of their own and see our players move on into the pros, all of those memories are special,” said Gwozdecky.
Gwozdecky is the only individual to win an NCAA title as a player (Wisconsin 1977), assistant coach (Michigan State 1986) and head coach (DU 2004-05) and he listed some of the highlights from his tenure as DU coach.
One was watching the reaction of his first Pioneer team (1994-95)
after getting a berth into the NCAA tournament.
There was the final game of the Denver Cup tournament played at McNichols Sports Arena when the Pioneers edged Colorado College, 3-2. “That was when I got my first appreciation for the rivalry and the popularity of the rivalry between the two hockey programs,” recalled Gwozdecky. “The building was packed. CC had a really good team that year and we were pretty good.” Gwozdecky revealed the 2002-03 team as the best DU team that he coached.
“We got beat in the third period of that championship regional game against Michigan and I will never forget because that might have been the strongest team we ever had,” admitted Gwozdecky.
And the back-to-back NCAA championship teams are included among his fondest
“Winning the national title for the first time in Boston will always be a great memory,” said Gwozdecky. “That year was so emotionally draining. It just seemed like that team had a lot of characters with great character. That’s the best way to put it. It just seemed we thrived on challenges.
“Winning back to back was a highlight. There was nowhere near the challenges that season. I remember getting back to Denver in a snowstorm from Columbus, Ohio, everybody was already talking about doing it for a third time.”
Gwozdecky started his head coaching career at Wisconsin — River Falls between 1981-84 where his teams went 66-29-2. He was at Miami (Ohio) for five seasons between 1989-94 before coming to DU. Those Miami (Ohio) teams went 83-94-19 in his five seasons at the helm.
After leaving DU, he spent two seasons as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay
Lightning in the NHL and is currently the head hockey coach at Valor Christian High School.
The Eagles are 63-20-3 during Gwozdecky’s four seasons as head coach.
To be able to see our program continue to rise, build and get better and see someof our assistant coaches move on to take over programs of their own and see our players move on into the pros, all of those memories are special