Montgomery sets out to build on ‘storied past and tradition’ at Denver

In what the Denver administration conceded was a poorly-kept secret, Jim Montgomery was officially named Monday as the Pioneers’ new head hockey coach.

A 1993 Maine graduate, Montgomery, 43, is the head coach and general manager of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL. His start date as the eighth hockey coach in Denver’s history is set for two days after Dubuque finishes its Clark Cup Playoffs run, which begins Wednesday.

“It’s a tremendous honor for me to join the Pioneer family and to lead DU hockey [with] its illustrious, storied past and tradition,” Montgomery said Monday. “I want to thank chancellor Robert Coombe and vice chancellor of athletics and recreation Peg [Bradley-Doppes] for believing in me and allowing me the opportunity to lead this fantastic program.”

Following assistant coaching stints at Notre Dame (2005-06) and Rensselaer (2006-10), Montgomery has spent the last three seasons leading Dubuque. This season, his Fighting Saints have amassed a 45-11-8 record, including the most single-season wins in the team’s history. They won the Anderson Cup as the league’s regular season champion.

Montgomery also made a name for himself in his collegiate playing career, captaining the Black Bears to their first national championship in 1993 and later becoming only the third Maine player to have his jersey number retired in Orono.

His time as a player lasted far beyond college; he played for a variety of professional teams in the United States, Canada, Germany and Russia between 1993 and 2005.

At Denver, Montgomery will succeed George Gwozdecky, who was controversially fired April 1 following a 19-year run with the Pioneers that saw the program win back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005.

To add insult to injury, there has been a mini-exodus of players in the wake of Gwozdecky’s dismissal. Sophomore defenseman Scott Mayfield, sophomore goaltender Juho Olkinuora and junior forward Nick Shore all signed contracts with NHL organizations following the departure of their head coach at Denver.

One bright spot for those players returning to DU and next season’s freshmen is that the Pioneers’ assistant coaches, Steve Miller and David Lassonde, are reportedly staying put. Montgomery couldn’t comment on that Monday, however, because, as he is not yet officially the Pioneers’ coach, he said commenting on that would have constituted an NCAA violation.

Montgomery did touch on his own goals for the program, though, saying he intends to build upon what Gwozdecky and Gwozdecky’s predecessors at Denver have done to make the program what it is today.

“It is my goal to ensure our program honors and builds upon the DU brand and the outstanding legacy of the Pioneer hockey family,” Montgomery said, “as well as the wonderful alumni that made that tradition of success a reality.”

He continued: “What makes this job one of the best in the country is not just the caliber of student-athletes you’re able to attract, but the institution you’re able to represent. The University of Denver is synonymous with academic excellence and integrity and a spirit of giving back to the community it calls home.

“I want to end my comments by saying to the Pioneer nation — students, faculty, staff, alumni, patrons and friends of the university — I will do everything in my power to make you proud to be associated with the DU hockey program.”