Gwozdecky: ‘I am not done coaching’ after shocking ouster at Denver

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.”


    • I was thinking the exact same thing!!! With the talent Maine currently has and the new freshman class considered one of the best in a long time, he would be a great addition. Now we just need the AD to get the stones to dump Whitehead.

      • that new Freshman class will be Whitehead’s class. Coaching college athletics is as much about recruiting as it is about the game plan. York and Parker are great coaches, but they (and their programs) are also great recruiters. Why do you think BC and BU are perpetually among the top recruiting classes each year?

        • york and parker also have championship banners hanging at their home rinks. if you’re going to compare whitehead to those guys, at least be fair enough to mention that those guys were able to get talent AND win the big one. that’s a pretty big distinction, don’t you think?!

          • Exactly. Whitehead seems to take those quality recruits and make them mediocre. And still no banners hanging from the rafters under his tenure and very few NHL players have come out of the program as of late.

            While I don’t follow Denver much, Gwad’s resume speaks for itself. NCAA Championships and plenty of players in the NHL came out of his program.

            Maine needs a change and now is a good time to do it.

          • You mean like taking a Maine team to the championship game and losing? I guess only winning all four games of the NCAA tournament will suffice for some people. Luckily, I do not think the fans in Oxford, OH think this way.

          • One NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 6 years would be acceptable to you? They barely made their conference tourney this year which is sad considering 8 out of the 10 teams make it. The Frozen Four loss in question was 10 years ago.

            Miami, in that same span has gone to all 6 NCAA tournaments, won their regular season once, their conference playoffs once and made it to 2 Frozen Fours. I would take Blazi over Whitehead anyday.

    • The WCHA and CCHA were effectively broken up when Penn State announced it would be the sixth Big Ten Division I hockey program. The same thing will happen to women’s WCHA if Michigan and Michigan State field women’s hockey.

      The WCHA and CCHA after the loss of five key programs would not both exist as strong enough conferences when looking at Strength of Schedule. It was also clear that NBC wanted Notre Dame hockey as an anchor for Friday Night programming. Thus, the very obvious marriage of Hockey East and Notre Dame came. This was not a well-kept secret and accelerated what was a defensive strategy for the westernmost hockey elite, form a new league.

      The CCHA lost the game of conference musical chairs, the WCHA took in the remaining CCHA teams plus Alabama-Huntsvile and UConn announced its move to HE in 2014. Many of us knew (from geography and the way ADs think) that UConn would be the 12th team and that the new WCHA probably would do what the CCHA would not do for Huntsville.

      • Joe, that is not why the WCHA broke up after losing Wisconsin and Minnesota. The WCHA, while not as strong after losing those two teams, was still a strong conference, and it would have been more like the HE conference in terms of strength of teams. The new conference was created because of two reasons–money and recruiting.

        • The truth of the matter is that money and recruiting are going to come from television. With BTHC on BTN and HE/Notre Dame on NBCSN, the WCHA as it stood. Also, WCHA and CCHA were staring across the table at each other just like the foolish Football BCS conferences. How long do you think the calls to Oxford lasted when Denver and North Dakota stated the obvious? “You had me at hello” is probably correct.

          WCHA as it stood might have survived, but we all know that Miami had to leave CCHA to continue to recruit. I am not sure all of the schools in WCHA would have been cool with that idea.

          The NCHC is much closer to Hockey East than the WCHA or CCHA were without the gigantic brand names. I know about North Dakota, CC, Miami, DU, WMU, etc because I am not a casual fan. Casual fans only know about North Dakota. Ten years ago, when I moved to Virginia, I saw two College hockey games, maybe three, on my television all year. No Beanpot for this BU alum without driving into DC to watch at a bar with other alumni.

          This year, I watched twenty college hockey games on TV and another five on the IPad at my house. I saw every league but the AHA. The NCHC was formed expressly to provide content to CBSSN to equal BTN/NBCSN. To do this, the path was clear…get the biggest names in one tent. Call it RPI, Strength of Scheduling, Money or Recruiting, the reality is television.

          • Joe,

            We have exchanged posts. I like your points of view. I look forward to hearing how much love your new digs @ BU when u come up from Virginia. As I stated before you will love them. There is no doubt who the best conference will be going forward. I was disappointed you did not take Jim to task when had the “balls” to say that the WCHA would have been just as good a conf as Hockey East without Minn and Wisconsin. It’s arguable that the WCHA and HEA as presently constituted are equal. Next year HE will reign supreme and if the WCHA did not rebrand and add a few talented teams it would have been equal to ECAC. I was insulted in Jim Bleths lose analogy. You went to BU. You did not agree with him but you let him off easily with saying the NHHC is closer to HEA and that is also incorrect in my opinion. I have been everywhere and HEA is loaded and especially next year. Not sure if you saw the attendance in Michigan over the weekend. It was an embarrassing 1400 fans with the possibility of UND and Minn playing for final time as conf rivals for Frozen Four. Wisconsin had more fans than that in NH. The Artist formally known as the WCHA rip East Coast Hockey all week and they got their tails handed to them. I like taking the high road but attendance and performance probably gives us a chance to say you are wrong and delusional and its time to stop ripping us. I will be in Pitt and I plan on having plenty of face to face conversations with West Coast peeps and see if they can back up their claims & rude opinions. I am not taking a shot @ you. In fact quite the opposite b/c you almost seemingly are logical and intelligent in your opinions…..just wish more HE fans would say politely you guys are full of S**t and need to watch more hockey than just their region. I also traveling with 25 HEA alums and I am a big dude. I plan on wearing my Maine gear. I will be cordial but I intend to make it clear. No more keyboard tough talk. I have my IPad loaded with pages of stats and figures/history. It’s going to be a blast. Wish you were there to join us

          • I would love to support the Riverhawks (I did take some MBA classes there when I worked in Mass) in Pittsburgh, but we have other things already in the works. I could have broken the plans for the Terriers at the Frozen Four, but with HD TV, we will be watching from the living room. Life is all about compromise. Thanks for all the nice words, by the way.

            I make it a point of emphasis NOT to deride any league or program. If people think league X is better, I will deconstruct their argument but that is far as I will take it. Personally, NCHC, BTHC and HE will be the home for “name” programs for a long time. nWCHA and ECAC will be elite leagues that have less NHL talent and the AHA will be a developmental league, developing new programs. I think the WCHA will also develop programs and revive others. As we all know, teams do not have to have NHL talent to succeed, as the NHL talent sometimes comes with costs, like early departures, players that are looking down the road to their payday and, frankly, boorish behavior as exhibited by a few players (including BU’s recent player issues).

            I like all the leagues equally, but a few teams outside BU have a soft spot in my heart. Maine tops the list, along with UNH, Vermont, Merrimack, Lowell, Northeastern, Providence, St Lawrence, Clarkson and Colgate. Also, anyone playing BC. Cornell is a good old-school rival. BU playing Maine is always a hard game for me, but I cheer for BU since I paid a ton of money to go there.

          • If you had satellite, you could always purchase an East Coast sports package that gets you the RSNs like NESN and YES. If I ever move outside of New England I will have to do this so I can continue to watch the Wildcats (and Yankees).

          • With Fios, I get lots of games now. I have NESN National Standard Definition, which finally shows the Beanpot. I have all of the ESPN channels in HD, along with NBCSN and the BTN in HD. I also get the CBSSN in Standard.

            During the NCAA tournament, I watch a lot of ESPN 360. I am glad NOT to have NESN for ALL of the Sox games, as 162 games makes me quite grumpy. I try to get to the Habs game at Verizon Center and a couple of Red Sox games up at Camden Yards. Technology is a good thing. Even if it means Barry Melrose says Union sure is taking it to BU tonight.

        • Are you serious that the WCHA if it would have stayed as is without Minn and Wisconsin would have been in same league as HEA? I am usually positive in my responses. In fact I love Western Hockey as a HEA School Alum. I lived in Colorado for a few years and went to many games @ Mag and World Arena. I also lived in Minneapolis for a year (Worst year of my life) and traveled to all the best arenas including of course Mariucchi. I have been to 100’s of HEA games. You are absolutely wrong if you think that the WCHA would have been even close to Hockey East. I will not be insulting b/c I mentioned I have respect for the talent out west but look at results bro. Hockey East is loaded with Hockey schools. Merrimack, UMass-Lowell, UMass are new to being good programs but no one wants to go play in their arenas b/c they are as good as anyone in any conference. BC, BU, UMaine and UNH speak for themselves. Vermont and Providence have great Hockey traditions and Northeastern plays in the oldest and most tradition rich Hockey Barn in the Nation. I am sorry but CC is smaller than most schools in any conference or in D1 period. DU has tradition but most if it was the early 50’s and 2003-2010, Alaska please, Bemidji, MND = Vermont. The only school left would be UND and the big 4 in Hockey East trump your only brand name. So you need to look @ the stats. UMaine has been down on the ice but they are about make a huge comeback and they have the best Arena n the country to watch and play hockey (Wall-Street Journal 2011). Not to mention this is the 20th Anniversary of the best team in College Hockey History. Umaine’s 42-1-2 team with 17 NHL players. Oh and we are adding the most popular school in the country with the Irish. So you needed to rebrand and add some talented schools. And adding Huntsville does not count.

  1. I’ve always liked Gwoz. He brought some very tough DU teams to ND and these games often went down to the wire. I am startled by this move, I really wonder who DU has in mind to replace Gwoz? I’ll never forget Gwoz standing on the edge of the boards screaming at the ref for missing a penalty at the Ralph a few years ago. The fans at the Ralph really got on Gwoz and it went on and on for several minutes. I could have swore I saw Gwoz eventually crack a slight smile as the chanting persisted. The other thing I remember about Gwoz was how classy he was after Brad Malone hit Jesse Martin. He could have been very hard on Malone but he created an environment for Malone to come forth with his sincere apology to Martin. I always thought this was very classy on his part…..very mature. I really hope he stays in college hockey, preferably in the west. DU better find a star coach because they are taking a big, big risk here if you ask me.

    • He had to be his player broke robbie bina’s neck with a dirty hit from behind in the final 5 a couple years before that.

    • How about when he walked out onto the ice at the Ralph because he disagreed with the officials and then got ejected. Classic.

  2. Best of luck in your search, Coach Gwozdecky. It would be fun if you came east to Storrs, CT. They are getting ready to offer scholarships and join the Big East, with a nice temporary rink in Hartford until they build a better arena on campus.

  3. Gwoz – we are stepping up to Hockey East at UConn, would love to have you come out and build what is sure to be a powerhouse hockey club. Fertile recruiting, top league, and 10X the name recognition of most hockey teams. Let’s get this done!

    • I think that is a HEA program that could use a high profile coach more than any other. They will soon be playing at least 16 games against a lot of tough opponents in league play, as opposed to playing in a much weaker AHA schedule.

  4. Uconn is a sleeping giant. The best choice going into Hockey East and a chance to build his own winner just like Calhoun, Geno, and Edsall.

  5. Can someone from Denver fill me in on the impressions this man had at the school? I always thought he was a fan favorite and seemed to develop outstanding hockey players. I’m puzzled by this move and would like a first person (or as close to first-person as I can get) perspective on the decision made by Denver’s AD.

    • Speaking for the circle of season ticket holders I hang with, we’re stunned. We didn’t see this coming at all. Gwoz is highly respected not only for his success on the ice but also for graduating good kids. There’s also an impression that he succeeded despite the athletic administration, which seems to favor men’s basketball over hockey. The AD comes across as clueless in this case. Not sure DU can ever smooth over butchering this. Gwoz deserved much better.

  6. I wonder if former Denver assistant and current Rensselaer Poly coach Seth Appert has put his name in the ring for Denver. He just got Rensselaer on the verge of being a powerhouse if he can keep all of his talent out of the NHL


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