DENVER — Longtime University of Denver men’s hockey coach George Gwozdecky has been fired after his team was eliminated Friday in the first round of NCAA tourney for the fifth time in six years, according to a story in the Denver Post.
The story also cited an inability of the school and Gwozdecky to agree on a contract extension as another reason for his being fired and said the school will pay the remaining year on his contract.
“I was stunned,” Angelo Ricci, a former DU forward, told the Post.
“Coach Gwozdecky has done so much for DU hockey, the academic institution, alumni and the community,” added Ricci, who is the director of the state’s triple-A hockey organization, the Colorado Thunderbirds. “He made DU hockey important again and made them a national power. He will be missed.”
Gwozdecky, 59, recorded a record of 443-267-64 at DU in 19 seasons, including national titles in 2004 and 2005.
Denver beat the University of Maine in the national final 1-0 in 2004 in Boston.
Maine has a career record of 11-8 against Denver and the Bears haven’t played the Pioneers since suffering 2-0 and 3-1 losses in 2007.
“We certainly wish George the best in his future endeavors and we are thankful for his 19 years at the helm of our hockey program,” DU vice chancellor for athletics and recreation Peg Bradley-Doppes said in a release from the school. “He certainly had his fair share of success, returning the program to the pinnacle of the collegiate hockey world during our great run in the middle of the previous decade. In addition, he has always run our program with class and professionalism, which has certainly made our fans proud to be Pioneer supporters.”
Gwozdecky was making a base salary of about $221,000, according to the Post story, and signed a 12-year contract extension in 2001.
“We must now turn our attention toward a new direction for our hockey program with another innovative coach taking the lead for our inaugural season in the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference,” Bradley-Doppes said in the release.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be the varsity hockey coach at the University of Denver for the past 19 years,” Gwozdecky said in the school’s release. “I’m extremely proud of the work that we have done to continue to build on the great Pioneer hockey tradition. Our consistency of success on the ice and in the classroom over the years has been a focal point of our work, and I am very proud of what we have achieved. I will forever cherish the relationships that we have built in the Denver community with our fans, our staff and most important our former and current players. I want to wish them all the best.”