Two main reasons Colorado College hockey is celebrating its 75th year is its ongoing connection to the community and Spencer and Julie Penrose.
"Absolutely," said Dave Delich, the program's career leader in assists (174) and points (285). "There is no Colorado College hockey without the support of Colorado Springs and the El Pomar Foundation."
The program started thanks to the largesse of businessman Spencer Penrose and his wife Julie. Spencer founded The Broadmoor Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Pikes Peak Highway, among other area institutions, using money from mining.
The resort flooded a little-used indoor equestrian arena to create the Broadmoor Ice Palace and give guests an entertainment option after dinner.
Julie Penrose's standing gave the fledgling program considerable cachet in the community. The games were a social event.
"The games started when Julie Penrose sat down," recalled retired CC professor Ray Werner. "They were scheduled for 8 p.m., but if she sat down at 8:15 or 8:17, the game started at 8:15 or 8:17, not before."
The Penroses' philanthropic efforts included the El Pomar Foundation, which continued to provide support.
But first, the Tigers had to play a game.
A ragtag group started play Jan. 21, 1938; an 8-1 loss to Giddings department store, formerly at 101 N. Tejon St. The first game with the college sponsoring the team was Dec. 14, 1938; a 5-4 win over the Colorado Springs Merchants.
"If you could stand up on skates and go three feet without falling over and you could carry a stick, why you could play for us," said 1939-41 player Dick Neill in a 1988 Gazette article.
The Tigers soon improved, becoming one of the more successful programs by World War II. There were no games played from 1942-44 and Cheddy Thompson took over as coach.
The Ice Palace hosted the first 10 NCAA championship tournaments from 1948-57.
It certainly helped the Tigers, who made the semifinals seven times in 10 years, including two NCAA championships in 1950 and 1957 thanks to the play of all-time greats such as Tony Frasca, Andy Gambucci, Ron Hartwell, Bill "Red" Hay and Milo "Mike" Yalich.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association was founded in 1959 with CC as a charter member. Julie Penrose's social schedule played a factor even then.
"The league was formed mostly to regulate when games began," said Werner, who helped found the WCHA as CC's faculty representative. "The other teams complained the games were starting too late. It grew from there and became a great league."
The connection between the Tigers and city grew on a personal level with many players working part time at The Broadmoor and many downtown merchants.
"I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to play at Colorado College," Gambucci said. "The community and the school always supported me."
That help did not translate into success over the next three decades, including when the team went 0-23 for the 1961-62 season, not counting an alumni game.
The El Pomar Foundation would help out the city and CC hockey in a big way again. In 1995, it donated $12 million toward the $58.8 million World Arena, CC's home arena, as part of a communitywide effort.
Building the facility assured the program's future after The Broadmoor World Arena was torn down in 1994.
"The El Pomar Foundation rose to the occasion and helped the community and hockey program," Tigers coach Scott Owens said.
That development coincided with a program renaissance that began under former coach Don Lucia and continued under Owens. The program recorded 20 non-losing seasons and made the NCAAs 12 times over that span.
That success enhanced community support. About 85 percent of the home fans have no direct connection to the school, a remarkable distinction in Division I sports, Owens said. Attendance has averaged 6,650 since World Arena opened in early 1998.
A high profile put CC in position to help found another league, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which began play Oct. 18.
The Penroses' formative role is not forgotten. The Spencer Penrose Award goes to the nation's top Division I coach. The NCHC regular-season champion plays for the Julie and Spencer Penrose Memorial Cup. The league offices are in the Penrose complex.
Now, the Tigers play regularly on national TV and compete against the best in college hockey.
All thanks to giving hotel guests a social event on weekend nights.
"The tie-in with The Broadmoor Hotel created a high-profile Division I sport in a town of 250,000 people or less, which is unusual," Owens said. "It is a very unique and wonderful thing."
CC's ALL-TIME RECORD
1,143-1,140-122, not including alumni games
18-20, NCAA Tournament play
2-3, NCAA title games
Here are the Colorado College players who earned All-America status:
1948 - Joe Slattery
1949 - Dick Rowell, Joe Slattery, Jim Starrak
1950 - Chris Ray, Jim Starrak
1951 - Tony Frasca, Jim Starrak
1952 - Omer Brandt, Tony Frasca, Ron Hartwell, Ken Kinsley
1955 - Phil Hilton, Doug Silverberg, Clare Smith
1956 - Doug Silverberg
1957 - Bill Hay, Bob McCusker, Don Wishart
1958 - Bill Hay, Bob McCusker
1964 - John Simus
1966 - Bob Lindberg
1967 - Bob Lindberg
1969 - Bob Collyard
1970 - Bob Collyard
1972 - Doug Palazzari, Bob Winograd
1974 - Doug Palazzari
1975 - Eddie Mio
1976 - Eddie Mio
1980 - Dave Feamster
1983 - Doug Lidster
1987 - Rob Doyle
1992 - Chris Hynnes
1994 - Shawn Reid
1995 - Ryan Bach, Kent Fearns, Jay McNeill
1996 - Ryan Bach, Peter Geronazzo
1998 - Calvin Elfring, Brian Swanson
1999 - Brian Swanson, Scott Swanson
2001 - Mark Cullen
2002 - Mark Cullen
2003 - Noah Clarke, Tom Preissing, Peter Sejna, Curtis McElhinney
2005 - Curtis McElhinney, Marty Sertich, Brett Sterling, Mark Stuart
2006 - Brett Sterling
2008 - Richard Bachman, Jack Hillen, Chad Rau
2009 - Chad Rau
2012 - Jaden Schwartz
The following are some of the important dates for Colorado College hockey over the past 75 years:
1938 - First game, a 8-1 loss to Giddings Inc. on Jan. 21; first win, a 2-0 overtime win over Alexander Filmers, Feb. 16
1940 - First intercollegiate games, a home sweep of Michigan, Dec. 13-14
1948 - CC hosts first of 10 consecutive NCAA Frozen Fours at Broadmoor Ice Palace.
1950 - Tigers down Boston University 13-4 to win first national championship
1952 - Ron Hartwell sets career goals record with 112 in three years
1957 - Tigers win second NCAA title with 13-6 victory over Michigan
1959 - CC founding member of Western Collegiate Hockey Association
1962 - Team sets WCHA record for consecutive league losses (18); Michigan Tech ties the mark in February 2011
1974 - Doug Palazzari finishes career as all-time leading scorer (226 points)
1979 - Dave Delich breaks single-season record set by Greg Whyte (82, 1978) with 84 points; finishes with career records in assists (174) and points (285)
1988 - Paul Markovich first and only Rhodes Scholar
1995 - Jay McNeil is school's first Hobey Baker finalist; Tigers record 30 wins
1996 - Peter Geronazzo is second Hobey finalist; CC wins third WCHA title in a row; loses to Michigan in NCAA title game, 3-2 OT
1997 - Tigers reach NCAA Frozen Four for second year in a row
1998 - Current World Arena opens
2003 - Peter Sejna is first Tiger to win Hobey
2005 - Marty Sertich wins program's second Hobey; edging teammate Brett Sterling; CC makes Frozen Four
2006 - CC earns 10th NCAA bid in 12 seasons
2011 - Tigers defeat Boston College 8-4 in NCAA opener; CC founding member of National Collegiate Hockey Conference
2013 - Tigers play first NCHC game; a 3-1 home win over Minnesota-Duluth