With the news that the Blackhawks are signing Cole Guttman on Wednesday, I was reminded of the unique connection the Blackhawks organization has shared with the University of Denver hockey program.
If you look at the 2021-22 individual award winners in the DU program, you’ll notice Guttman was named the team’s Bill Masterton MVP Award and also received the Dr. Ralph Verploeg Most Inspirational Player Award.
But you’ll also notice the team’s Best Defensive Player Award is named for former Blackhawks captain Keith Magnuson.
Maggie was part of DU’s 1968 NCAA championship roster before coming to the Blackhawks. His incredible relationship with former Blackhawk Cliff Koroll grew while they were at Denver together and lasted until Magnuson’s unfortunate passing in 2003. Koroll and Maggie were critical in the founding of the Blackhawks Alumni Association.
But the relationship between the Blackhawks and DU goes deeper than a couple of players who played there more than 50 years ago and has become more prevalent in recent years. In fact, when my brother was working on his first master’s degree at DU, he bought my oldest son a hockey jersey that each of my three boys has worn to a Blackhawks game at the United Center.
As David Haugh reported for the Chicago Tribune in 2017, when DU won the NCAA championship at the United Center, the Blackhawks ownership group has been intimately involved with the Denver program in the past decade.
In 2018, DU opened the Miller Hockey Complex, largely thanks to the financial support of John Miller, who was also on the Blackhawks’ board. The Denver alumnus also helped coordinate the search that landed Jim Montgomery as the head coach at Denver in 2013 — a search that was aided by consultation from the Blackhawks’ front office thanks to Miller’s relationship with the university and the Blackhawks organization.
The video room in the Miller Hockey Complex was also named for Maggie.
More recently, the Blackhawks have had a line of prospects who have played at Denver for Montgomery and, more recently, David Carle. Carle, 31, is considered one of the up-and-coming stars in the college coaching ranks and signed a long-term extension with DU on Aug. 16.
Defenseman Blake Hillman (2016 draft) played for Montgomery at DU before signing with the Blackhawks. Ian Mitchell and Slava Demin arrived at DU the following year when Carle took over as the head coach. The Blackhawks have also acquired former Pioneers Henrik Borgström and, now, Guttman in recent seasons.
And, this fall, 2022 draft pick Aidan Thompson will skate for Carle at Denver.