For Coach David Carle, DU’s perfect 10 equals the best in college hockey

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17min 57sec
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
University of Denver men’s hockey coach David Carle stands in his home locker room. April 16, 2024. The Pioneers overcame skepticism to become the NCAA’s all-time winningest program after taking their 10th national championship last weekend.

David Carle doesn’t want to sound belligerent.

He wishes it wouldn’t be necessary to publicly point out what should seem so very apparent to anyone who cares to look.

But when it comes to University of Denver hockey, some folks seem to have blind spots.

So Carle and his Pioneers take it upon themselves to shed a little light on the subject.

And now we are the indisputable, best program in college. You could have argued it a couple of months ago. You can't argue it now.”

That was the Denver coach, speaking to a group of true believers — a rabid crowd gathered at Magness Arena to celebrate the team’s national championship. A 2-0 victory last weekend over Boston College gave DU its 10th NCAA title, the most in the sport — one more than the University of Michigan, two more than North Dakota, double that of Minnesota, Boston University or Boston College.

And yet some were hesitant to include the Pioneers amongst the who's who of college hockey.

So when the final horn blew at the end of the Frozen Four in St. Paul, after the gloves and sticks were dropped and the players dogpiled on the ice, after Carle and his staff hugged it out on the bench, after the championship trophy was hoisted, the team returned to its locker room, where a sign, seemingly preordained, awaited them.

“How ‘Bout Now?”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
University of Denver men's hockey titles, with room for their 2024 victory on the wall. April 16, 2024.

Indeed, DU is on top of collegiate hockey, and recently Carle spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about the road to the championship, as well as what it will take for the journey to continue.

“We also went to the program and everybody to turn our attention toward next season, as crazy as that sounds, in trying to win our 11th championship,” Carle said. “We always have our eye on the future … we're always looking, planning and I think it's what we're known to do.

“So you always have to have an eye on the future and an eye in the present and in the past. We want to be perennial contenders year in and year out. And so you have to be able to go from two feet elevation to 50,000 feet elevation within a given day or hour.”

Carle also spoke about his route to the Pioneers’ bench.

NCAA Denver Boston U Hockey
Abbie Parr/AP
Denver players celebrate after an overtime win against Boston University in a semifinal game at the Frozen Four NCAA college hockey tournament Thursday, April 11, 2024, in St. Paul, Minn.

Once a promising player, in 2008 his career came to an abrupt end before his freshman season at DU when he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the primary disease of the myocardium muscle of the heart. Then-coach George Gwozdecky honored his scholarship, making Carle a student assistant coach.

Ten years later he took over the program. Carle said that while he was devastated to see his playing days end, time has offered a measure of perspective.

“I felt really fortunate in the moment, truthfully, to have been diagnosed – there were two people, hockey players, who passed away within three to six months of my diagnosis,” he told Warner, adding that he still works with the Mayo Clinic to keep abreast of his condition. “I always felt really blessed and fortunate to have been diagnosed and have it been caught. And certainly looking back on it, I think things happen for a reason. And it's maybe not the ideal path that I had planned, but the path we're on, is certainly going okay.”

Interview Highlights

On how Denver recovered from a February stretch of three losses in four games:

I think anytime bad things happen in sport from a results standpoint, it gives you an opportunity to really look in the mirror and reflect upon how that happened and what needs to change for it not to happen again. And that's where it gets back to the people in the room. They need to be willing to want to have those conversations, be held accountable, hold themselves accountable and really want to get out of it. And that's when we lost 7-2 at home. I think we went 15-1-1 after that, and the guys never really looked back from there.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
University of Denver men's hockey coach David Carle stands in his home locker room. April 16, 2024.

On the type of player who fits at DU:

We've turned away top five, top 10 picks (in the National Hockey League draft). We've walked away from recruiting conversations because of red flags around selfishness and really players just wanting to worry about "What is Denver going to do for me? How is Denver going to get me to the NHL?"

And certainly, we play a role in that and we want players, and many of our players want to play in the NHL, but a lot of what we talk about is you're going to learn how to win here and you're also going to become a much better hockey player and person because of that.

On the program’s sustainability in the face of college sports’ changing landscape:

There's a lot of fluidity to running and operating a college hockey program today. You're certainly more than just a coach … The college landscape continues to evolve and change and it's an exciting time to be in it if you like drama and you like constant change and I think it makes more compelling stories and for fans and people to talk about and such.

I don’t particularly like drama, but I'm fine with managing it. And I think from an outsider's perspective, we talk about growing the game — I think there's a platitude of storylines that are created from more money, eyeballs, transparency and movement coming into college athletics.