As the final buzzer sounded at the World Arena two weeks ago and the University of Denver finalized its 6-5 hockey win over Colorado College, the real scuffle was just beginning.
Players from both teams became engulfed in a violent punching and shoving battle near the visiting Pioneers bench, and from the stands came a flurry of stadium debris. Nachos, beer, French fries and napkins sailed into the DU delegation, striking at least one player and an equipment manager.
“As much as we are detested and hated when we go down there, we’ve always felt safe,” Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky told the Denver Post on Nov. 20. “I would say at the end of the game (Friday) was the first time we haven’t felt safe.”
What the Post article didn’t mention, however, were the gestures, words and actions of DU players as they left the ice that night, and the extent of longstanding, sometimes violent, clashing, between the two colleges that has spanned the distance between Denver and Colorado Springs for many years.
The Denver Post didn’t respond to voicemail messages requesting comment.
The rivalry between CC and DU is decades old, and scuffles involving fans and players are not uncommon. In fact, it almost tradition to razzle the opposition.
“[CC center] Rylan Schwartz delivered a legal check to the body of a DU player directly in front of their bench right before the end of the game,” CC Athletic Director Ken Ralph said. “Several DU players took offense to the check happening when the result of the game was no longer in doubt and started a pushing and shoving match.”
The debris tossed onto the ice that followed was not actually directed at DU players, according to Ralph.
“My issue with the end of the game was the fact that some of our fans threw items (plastics cups and plastic bottles) on the ice in frustration with the officiating,” said Ralph. “There is never a time when it is OK to throw any item on the ice. The good thing is that our student section was not involved.”
After the brawl was broken up by officials, DU players left the ice via an exit on the opposite side of the arena and passing by the student section. At least two players flashed CC students “the finger,” made threatening gestures and mouthed obscenities.
One DU player flicked ice shavings over the glass boards with his stick, showering students.
Coach Gwozdecky did not wish to comment further on the fight, telling The Catalyst through a college media representative that they have “moved past it.”
DU goalie Juho Olkinuora and Rylan Schwartz were each issued game misconducts and one-game suspensions following the scrap.
Later review of the tape from the post-game excitement showed the officials might have gotten the calls wrong, Ralph said.
“No real punches were thrown,” Ralph said. “Rylan was [disqualified] for a ‘check to the head’ which, on review of the game tape, was an incorrect call. DU’s goalie was also [disqualified] and quite frankly the review of the tape does not support that decision by the refs either.”
In a year where college rivalries have made disgraceful national news, it raises the question: when does it go too far?
In the online comments section following the Denver Post article both CC and DU fans shared their horror stories from attending games in Colorado Springs and Denver.
“A couple of years ago I attended a CC and DU fame at DU’s Magness arena and… a young DU student decided to throw a beer in my [6-year-old] son’s face after the game due to his cheerful celebration of CC winning the Gold Pan,” wrote online user throwingcoppr.
DU fans reported a similarly awful experience at the recent game in Colorado Springs.
“I went to the World Arena on Friday with another Denver fan,” wrote online user DenverFan19. “As two young females setting out for a night of hockey, we encountered many situations where we felt in danger… After the game a group of young men charged at my friend and I… As we pulled out of the parking lot, another CC fan kicked my friend’s car.”
There is plenty of lighthearted rivalry, too.
Many remember the nationally televised DU game two years ago when former President Dick Celeste hurried over to the student section to stop an “F-U DU” chant, and University of Denver fans have started a trend on Twitter called #CCsucks.
“I still think it’s a friendly rivalry, and again, this is just from what I have heard and what I have seen,” said Nicole Bostel, Director of Athletic Media Relations for DU. “From the places I have been I have seen rivalries that are much more aggressive than that of CC and DU. I find it a pretty civil rivalry, I would say, compared to others.”
Both the World Arena and DU’s Magness say they take security very seriously.
“I believe from what I can tell you from our security staff we treat every game the same and if something is reported it is dealt with,” Bostel said. “I don’t know of anything that our security staff has had to deal with outside the normal.”
Dot Lischick, an executive administrator at the World Arena, acknowledged that the items tossed onto the rink were done so on the complex’s watch, but believes that “fans need to take more responsibility for their actions.”
“We show a video before every CC game that explains the respectful behavior we expect from our fans,” Lischick said. “Fans need to respect what’s going on.”