Denver Stunner: Gwozdecky Out
CHN Staff Report
DENVER Denver coach George Gwozdecky was "released from his contract" today, a stunning development, at least from the outside.
Gwozdecky has been head coach for 19 years, and won national championships in 2004 and 2005.
The school said a national search for his replacement will begin immediately. Gwozdecky will address the media in a press conference on Tuesday at 11 a.m. on Denver's campus.
“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 a statement. “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 importantly our former and current players.”
Gwozdecky was working under a 12-year contract that was due to expire after next season. As reported in the Denver Post, Gwozdecky recently said he was expecting a contract extension before the end of this season. But that did not come. In fact, according to the Post, Gwozdecky was making a base of $221,000 per year, and had been working on a new deal since 2009.
Gwozdecky had flirted with the Ohio State opening a couple of years ago. It was though to be as leverage in order to get a new deal.
According to Denver Post writer Mike Chambers, a planned meeting between Gwozdecky and athletic department officials did not go well today. According to Chambers, Gwozdecky was confronted over lack of recent NCAA success, and the administration balked at conceding to his contract demands.
The news is particularly surprising, though, because Gwozdecky was a key force behind the creation of the NCHC, the new conference that begins play next year.
Denver has made the NCAAs the last six years, but is 1-5 in the NCAAs since last winning the national title.
Denver finished fifth in the WCHA this season, with a 20-14-5 overall record. The Pioneers lost in the first round of the WCHA playoffs to Colorado College, then lost its first-round NCAA tournament game to New Hampshire on Friday.
Gwozdecky compiled a 443-267-64 record with Denver, and is 593-391-85 for his career. His first Division I head coaching job was at Miami.
“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,” said Denver athletic director Peg Bradley-Doppes. “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.
“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.”
The reaction from former players on Twitter was swift. Current Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak said: "@DU_Hockey just took a big step backwards letting @CoachGwoz go! He was a true pioneer and one of the best coaches and people I know!" ... Former defenseman Chris Butler, now with the Calgary Flames, said "Tough to see @DU_Pioneers lose one of the best college hockey coaches ever! Gwoz was a great teacher and coach. Thanks for everything!" ... And former forward Paul Stastny, now with Colorado in the NHL, said, "Shocked/speechless by @DU_Pioneers decision to let Qwoz go! First class coach all the way, one of the best I've ever had! True pioneer!!!"