What felt like a big-time celebration unfolded Tuesday night at Magness Arena.
University of Denver alumnus Conor McGahey, the Broncos’ new public-address announcer, introduced Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, among others, to honor the DU Pioneers’ eighth NCAA hockey championship. An estimated crowd of 1,700 also heard from DU chancellor Rebecca Chopp and Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery.
“You made this city so very proud last weekend,” Hancock said of the Pioneers, who finished 33-7-4 after beating Minnesota Duluth 3-2 in Saturday’s national championship game in Chicago. “Thank you for showing us what champions look like.”
“What you’ve done for us, and this university, is so impressive,” Chopp said of the DU program.
Hickenlooper noted that DU is no stranger to the national spotlight.
“If it’s not hockey, it’s lacrosse. And if it’s not lacrosse, it’s skiing,” the governor said of DU’s powerhouse programs.
Montgomery became choked up twice, first when talking about junior defenseman Tariq Hammond’s postgame return to the ice in crutches after dislocating his right ankle early in the third period. Montgomery also fought back tears when talking about other injuries and how close the coaching staff and players became.
“It was awesome,” Montgomery said of the season. “Thank you for bringing us along for the ride. You will walk together forever. It’s been an incredible journey.”
DU senior defenseman and team captain Will Butcher also spoke from the podium. He thanked all the fans — including the large contingent that traveled to Chicago. DU’s allotted corner at the United Center and its postgame party at the team hotel felt like a Big Ten school had played for and won the championship.
“I think that was the most fans we’ve every had at a neutral site before. It was unbelievable,” Butcher said.
Montgomery noted that former DU chancellor Dan Ritchie — a.k.a. Mr. Pioneer — told…