I know this isn’t a hockey blog, and there’s a good chance a fair number of you won’t be interested in a story about hockey, but this isn’t as much of a story about hockey as it is a story about the celebrations that came during and after. Also, excuse the lack of high quality imagery. My photographer was busy.
While a majority of D1 colleges tend to keep their eyes on football or basketball, the University of Denver keeps the focus on winter sports. The school doesn’t have a football team after an incident involving Colorado School of Mines and several sticks of dynamite led to its removal, there’s no D1 baseball team, and the basketball team is… well… it exists. Instead, the ski team is one of the best in the nation, the lacrosse team brings the tailgates, and the hockey team gathers the largest crowds.
In 2019, as a freshman in college, I watched the University of Denver’s hockey team fall to the University of Massachusetts in what could only be described as a stolen semifinal game (call me biased if you want, but I say those refs sucked). This year, as a senior, I watched Denver’s hockey team put down Michigan in the semifinals with a beautiful overtime goal.
I could not imagine a better way to conclude my college career than watching and celebrating a national championship win. So, Saturday night, I waited in line for 30 minutes to gain entry to one of the University’s packed local college bars, was gifted a seat from friends who had arrived earlier, and ordered myself a personal pitcher of Coors Light. It was time for DU to take on Minnesota State in the NCAA National Championship.
As I said, this isn’t a hockey story, so I’m not going to bore you with all the details of the game. Instead, here’s some highlight footage, and here’s an article discussing the story. Importantly, it was an incredibly well played game, and by the end of the second period, Minnesota State was up 1-0. I hadn’t been so stressed watching a sports event in years (if ever), and my nails are still pretty messed up from stress biting. Alcohol, nicotine, Colorado green, nothing would have been able to relieve the stress caused by the first two periods of that hockey game.
The third period became a little less stressful fairly quickly. Early on, Denver snuck in a goal, bringing the score to 1-1. In a packed bar with fans of only one team, that goal meant severe ear-pain, a splitting headache, and an almost immediate loss of voice. Another was scored not too long after that, and by the five minute warning, the score was 3-1. Screaming, chanting, cheering, everything. Ear pain, head pain, throat pain. Minnesota State became desperate, an early empty net brought the score to 4-1, then 5-1, then the end game buzzer. Denver had become national champions for the 9th time, my ears had been possibly permanently damaged, and my voice had completely disappeared. But that wasn’t the end.
Denver Police had blocked off the streets outside of the many bars surrounding campus, so when people began shouting “take it to the streets”, safety had already been established. Students packed University Boulevard, chanting, singing, dancing, climbing street signs. Fireworks were flying everywhere from many different locations. (DISCLAIMER: I in no way support the destruction of public or private property, nor do I support any form of illegal activity in the name of celebration) Riot police and national guard sat watching and a police helicopter flew overhead, blaring its spotlight on the students below. Fortunately, however, none of that was needed.
For college students, the highlights of sports celebrations often includes the burning of certain furniture items. I personally witnessed the burning of a couch (which, from what I understand, was not stolen and was rather donated to the cause of celebration), but I’ve been informed that there were at least two more couches and possibly a mattress burned on other parts of campus. To be clear, the police and fire department allowed this to occur, watching closely to ensure safety and coming in to put the fire out when it got too large. No, it’s not a safe way to celebrate, and the second I saw people jumping over the burning pile of wood, I rightfully knew someone was going to fall in, but people were watching out for each other, and no one was hurt.
Everyone has their own ways of celebrating. If you want, you can judge the students of the University of Denver for how they celebrated, but it was mostly done safely and under the watch of officials who were shockingly supportive of the cause. At the end of the day, a school full of students who either lost part of their college career or part of their high school career to a pandemic were gifted a night to blow off all the steam in the world, and they did it well.
Image Credit: Nolan Deck, Connor Mokrzycki & Denver Pioneers