Denver celebrates championship with fans at Magness

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DENVER — In front of a good-sized crowd of fans Tuesday at Magness Arena, the Denver Pioneers celebrated their season and eighth national championship, one which culminated last week with a 3-2 defeat of NCHC rival Minnesota Duluth at the United Center in Chicago.

The event included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp, and the entire Denver team and coaching staff.

Denver coach Jim Montgomery, in a meeting with the media, said of the crowd in Chicago, “I remember talking to Mr. Dan Ritchie and he said that he thought it was the biggest Denver contingent ever outside of Denver.” The team was happy with the celebration at Magness.

Denver captain Will Butcher, hoisting the NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Championship Trophy high above his head, led his teammates onto the ice, where they walked on a red carpet to a setup at center ice.

“It came yesterday and it was a feeling I can’t really describe for you,” said Butcher of realizing his team had won the championship and he had won the Hobey Baker Award. “We were all just sitting around and talking about the national championship game and every moment, what each guy was thinking. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Defenseman Tariq Hammond, who broke his ankle in the third period of the championship game against Minnesota Duluth, was assisted out in a wheelchair by freshman Michael Davies, whose shot was deflected by Jarid Lukosevicius in the second period for Denver’s first goal.

“He’s got to go see a specialist again; he’s going to have surgery as soon as the swelling goes down,” said Montgomery. “He needs to have surgery to correct and fix the broken bone in his ankle.”

“I’m feeling pretty good; obviously my ankle hurts a little bit,” said Hammond. “Just being part of what’s going on right now and seeing everyone so happy, it’s just crazy to be a part of it. It kind of feels surreal that we won a national championship.”

Hammond, who is facing a three- or four-month recovery post surgery, a surgery expected this Friday, also talked about Montgomery’s assertion in the post-championship presser that Hammond would be wearing a letter as either a captain or alternate captain.

“It’s crazy to me,” Hammond said. “Being a leader on any team is a special privilege. Learning so much from our captains this year is a big part of that. They’ve done a great job, so if I have the opportunity to do that I have big shoes to fill. Our whole team has so much experience right now that everyone is a leader on our team. One guy isn’t going to lead the team, it’s going to be our entire team as leaders.”

Chopp, Hancock and Hickenlooper all gave speeches during the celebration, and all three were challenged with Lukosevicius’ name, stumbling over the pronunciation. Host Conor McGahey, a DU alum, finally told them and the assembled fans the right way to say it. Hancock took a selfie with the team, getting them to all gather in a circle around Hammond, and Hickenlooper ended his speech by pronouncing April 11, 2017, forever “Denver University Hockey National Champions Day.”

In his speech, the proclamation also talked about Montgomery earning his 100th win this season and Butcher taking home the Hobey Baker Award and Tanner Jaillet winning the Mike Richter Award. He also tweeted that out with a picture of him at the podium at center ice.

Butcher gave a speech thanking is teammates and was celebrated for winning the Hobey Baker Award, and the event ended with a speech from Montgomery, who thanked the team and fans and then specifically called to star forwards Henrik Borgström, Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry, saying, “Let’s do it again next year!”

Terry, who also won the World Junior Championship with Team USA earlier this season, acknowledged it was a special season for him.

“Yeah, it’s definitely helped me confidence-wise as a player just to be able to do that stuff,” he said. “I’ve been pretty luck to play on some great teams, and it’s been a pretty special year. The World Juniors was really cool, winning that was pretty special, but this one was a lot more personal to me. It’s pretty incredible.”

Borgström, who was named a first-team All-American during the Frozen Four, talked about the weekend as something that he still felt light about, and joked about his new short haircut.

“It feels good; now that I have my new haircut going on it feels even better,” said Borgström. “It feels really amazing. Two days after this happened, I feel like I’m on the air. I’m so glad, so happy for us. Maybe next week I’ll figure out what we did last weekend. It was a good tournament for sure.”

Borgström also talked about the images of him chasing Montgomery’s child around the ice during the on-ice celebration Saturday, and the one of him picking Montgomery up in a bear hug.

“That was nice; JT is always after me, or I don’t know if I’m after him, that was really fun,” said Borgström. ”I thought they were happy. It was really nice someone got pictures of that.”

Both Terry and senior Evan Ritt, who grew up in Colorado, talked about what it meant to them as locals to help Denver win its championship.

“I grew up going to Pioneers’ games; I watched them in ’04 and ’05, and as a little kid playing hockey I know how much it means to the community here, the school and all the alumni,” said Terry. “It meant a lot for us.”

“It’s crazy; a lot of people have reached out to me,” said Ritt. “I’ve thought about this question, what does it mean to be a Colorado guy, and I just thought about when I grew up, I watched the ’03-04 and ’04-05 teams and it was the coolest thing watching them win. I didn’t ever expect to make it here and you don’t really understand what all goes into winning at this level until you make it here, and it’s been really cool to be a part of this with this group of guys. I think that’s the best thing for me, is being with a group like this.”

Montgomery also talked about next season a little and trying to add to Denver’s championship total and catch overall leader Michigan with nine.

“Obviously, it’s the next goal to try and add and continue to add,” he said. “Denver has a great history of going back to back, so maybe we can do that.”

9 COMMENTS

  1. Another great article, as usual. West side pretty packed, quite surprising. Hancock and Hickenlooper were amusing and hilarious, especially how they tried to pronounce Lukosevicius. Great they gave Mr. Ritchie his due. Montgomery’s peach was excellent, glad he mentioned it would be wonderful if Terry, Borgstrom, Gambrell and Jaillet would come back next year to try to repeat. We all wish Hammond the best, I am sure the players want him to wear the “C” next year, our best defensive defense-man.

    • Even Copp stumbled on Lukosevicius, which I thought was funny. I think people will be surprised by how much of the team is back next year, except for the seniors.

      Yep, Roy really screwed the pooch with Butcher. I suppose Will may still sign with the Avs if they offered him enough money, but why would he want to? The franchise is a freaking mess. I think Tyson Jost should have stayed another year with North Dakota personally. The Avs are such a mess that his development as a player may take a setback. Unfortunately for Sakic and the Avs, the franchise will continue to struggle as long as the Kroenkes own it, as I think they look at the Avs as a tax writeoff for the Nuggets.

      Glad you liked the article. Thanks for your many words of support this season.

        • As a long time Avalanche fan, who could barely get into the Pepsi Center from 1999 to 2007 because the demand for tickets was off the charts, I am shocked how far that franchise has fallen. What a shame.

      • I am wondering if Jost is having second thoughts about signing with the AVS. He will have trouble scoring with this bunch and might get frustrated. I finally found something I don’t totally agree with you. Even though Kroenke had screwed up both teams (Avalanche and Nuggets) royally, I lay some of the blame on Sakic. He has been way to passive while his team has gone down the toilet. They are at a point where they are forced to keep their under-performing high priced players like Varlomov, Duschene and Landeskog because nobody wants to make a decent trade for them because of their contracts. I hated Roy as a coach but at least he was smart enough to see the writing on the wall. They need to bring in a “known” coach and give him the power to make decisions, something Roy never had.

    • Butcher would be a great fit in Los Angeles with the Kings or in New York with the Rangers. I thought Aston-Reese deserved to win the Hobey, but Butcher was a very close second. Denver had a great year and simply would not be denied the national championship. First class program with an outstanding coach.

      • Since I am a Ranger fan, I would love to see Butcher take the same path as Vesey. The Regionals counted in the Hobey voting, so it is hard to deny Butcher the award. His defense and ability to move the puck up ice, against arguably the top competition in CH, probably played a major role in the voting.

  2. Wow — huge crowds!! Like no one. Impossibly stale….why any decent hockey player (with IQ above 100) would go anywhere but Hockey East or ECAC literally boggles the mind.

    • Obviously, your mind boggles easily. Maybe the best players in college hockey like to play in front of “crowds”. Other than UML, playing in HE or ECAC just does not cut it as far as fan base. Even BU, with the best “prospects” this year, played to 71% of their capacity. By the way, your Catamounts were 22nd in attendance, kind of pitiful, just like your post. Hope this helps to “unboggle” your mind.

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