George Gwozdecky once ranked among Colorado Springs' most despised invaders. For 19 years, The Double G led the University of Denver hockey team into World Arena, where Colorado College fans shouted mean, obscene words at him and, once, tossed a full glass of soda at his head.
Now he's being mentioned by CC fans as a possible replacement for coach Scott Owens. Gwozdecky, inexplicably fired as DU coach a year ago, now works as an assistant for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. This crusade is not a tidal wave, but I've heard from several disgruntled CC fans who want The Double G to lead the Tigers.
Gwozdecky laughed over the weekend when he heard about the crusade. He called from Buffalo a few hours before the Lightning played the Sabres.
"I'm not interested," Gwozdecky said, "and I don't think the CC job is going to open. I would be very surprised if it opened.
"I think Scott has done a terrific job and I'm sure he will be able to continue to do so. Whenever he wants to retire, he will retire at CC. That's what I think.
"To be honest with you, I'm surprised there is even a mention of that. I believe Scott and his staff have done a great job. Everybody has a tough year, especially going into a new conference."
Owens and his Tigers recently endured a season that traveled somewhere beyond tough. CC won seven of 37 games while playing in the newly founded National Collegiate Hockey Conference. I hear, often, from CC fans who explain the Tigers troubles this season by pointing to the rigors of playing in the NCHC. I don't hear so often about the Tigers finishing 0-9-1 in nonconference play.
Gwozdecky attended the NCHC first press conference, and he remembers standing with his fellow coaches. Everyone was smiling, happy, optimistic.
But Gwozdecky could see the future.
"At some point, when this thing gets serious, someone will finish first, but someone will finish last and none of these programs is used to that," Gwozdecky said, thinking back to that day.
Owens faces a special challenge at CC, Gwozdecky said. It's the same challenge Gwozdecky once faced at DU. Tuition is expensive at a private school, and this high cost can limit a team's depth. It takes a special coach to craft a winner in this atmosphere.
For many seasons, Gwozdecky said, Owens was that special coach.
"I can tell you in his past that Scott always had terrific teams, very talented teams," Gwozdecky said. "It wasn't that long ago that Denver and CC were playing in the semifinal of the Frozen Four. It's not as if we coaches get dumb all of a sudden."
Yes, Owens and his Tigers endured a brutal season, but Gwozdecky noticed one major accomplishment that brightened the gloom for CC.
"It's my understanding that CC won the Gold Pan this year," Gwozdecky said.
The Double G is right, as usual. Owens and his players toppled DU's Pioneers that once employed Gwozdecky as coach.