Former Denver coach George Gwozdecky made one thing perfectly clear at his farewell news conference Tuesday at Magness Arena: He’s not done.
Gwozdecky, 59, was released from his contact at Denver on Monday following an impasse over a possible extension that would have kept him behind the Pioneers bench past the expiration of his existing deal.
The decision came as a shock to most everyone outside of the Denver athletic department, as many wondered when the news broke whether it was an April Fools’ Day joke. It wasn’t, though, and Gwozdecky is out after 19 seasons leading the Pioneers.
Gwozdecky won back-to-back national championships with DU in 2004 and 2005.
He said Tuesday that though he, too, was surprised by the decision from athletic director Peg Bradley-Doppes and the university, he is taking the high road by accepting DU’s choice and moving on with his career.
“When I was informed yesterday morning of the university’s decision to release me from my contract,” Gwozdecky told reporters Tuesday, “I’ve got to admit that I was stunned and shocked.
“However, since then, I’ve come to accept the decision and am ready to move forward with the next chapter of my career, whatever that might be.”
Although the college hockey offseason hasn’t officially started and a few other coaching changes have been made so far — former Alaska-Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak, one of Gwozdecky’s adversaries in the WCHA, was fired by UAA last week — Gwozdecky likely wont be out of coaching any longer than he may wish to be.
A 1978 graduate of Wisconsin, Gwozdecky posted a 443-267-64 record in his 19 years at DU. That span saw the Pioneers clinch their sixth and seventh national championships and the opening in 1999 of Magness Arena, part of the on-campus Daniel L. Ritchie Center sports complex.
Before arriving in the Colorado capital, Gwozdecky was a head coach at both Wisconsin-River Falls (1981-83) and Miami (1989-93).
Though Denver’s 2012-13 campaign came to a halt in a 5-2 Northeast Regional semifinal loss to New Hampshire on Friday, Gwozdecky’s Pioneers had hardly fallen on hard times. DU had clinched NCAA tournament berths in each of his final six seasons at the university.
Gwozdecky said Tuesday that, until he learned of DU’s decision to fire him, he had no intention to speak to reporters this week about anything other than the Pioneers’ run in this year’s postseason.
“It was my intention to be speaking to you today about our next opponent at the Frozen Four and how we accomplished our wins at the Northeast Regional,” Gwozdecky told reporters in his opening statement. “Obviously, I did not plan for any other reason [to be here] besides that.”
Tuesday’s news conference turned out to be an emotional one for Gwozdecky, who paused on several occasions. One such stoppage came when he addressed his teams’ outgoing seniors over his years at the university.
“I believe I’ve made all but one of our graduation ceremonies for our seniors in the spring, and they’ve always been enjoyable to me because, No. 1, knowing that our seniors would always go out of order when it came time to be introduced and accept their diplomas,” Gwozdecky said.
“They’d always go up there together like they had during their four years, and I think maybe one of the greatest experiences that I will always recall is watching our former players move on through their careers and realize their careers, not only in hockey in the National Hockey League, but in their other career paths that they’ve chosen, whether that be business or education or you name it.
“And then, for them to call back or be back here for the reunions, that’s extremely special, and that’s what this has been all about for me.”
Gwozdecky appeared ready to move on to a new stage in his career, though, and he made a point of telling reporters and those watching his news conference on the university’s online streams that he has done his best at and for Denver, and that he is not done working in the profession.
“I’ve always asked our team and staff and demanded to myself to represent the university with class, with dignity, with integrity, with honesty and with honor,” Gwozdecky said.
“I’m not done coaching. I have spent the last 34 years coaching, mentoring, teaching young people to assist them in developing a more mature attitude toward life, and I’m excited to explore the many avenues that may be available to me.
“I repeat: I am not done coaching.”