Aug. 18, 2015
The University of Denver hosted its annual Hockey Alumni Pro Camp last week, as players from various professional hockey clubs practiced together in Magness Arena as they prepare for the start of their upcoming seasons.
This year's camp had more than 25 players attend, including Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (DU: 2007-2009), St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (DU: 2004-2006), Buffalo Sabres defenseman Matt Donovan (DU: 2009-2011), Calder Cup champion Nick Shore (DU: 2010-2013) as well as St. John's IceCaps defenseman Josiah Didier (DU: 2011-2015), Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins forward Ty Loney (DU: 2011-2015) and Wheeling Nailers forward Matt Tabrum (DU: 2011-2015).
Bozak, who lives in Denver during the summer, was happy to come back to campus and be able to practice with some of his former teammates.
"It's awesome," the NHL veteran said. "They've been doing this camp for four or five years now, so it's nice to have all the guys come together and skate together. We have a lot of friends that we've made over the years and the coaching staff and everyone who puts this on does a great job."
The group took part in on-ice sessions from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each day. Pios head coach Jim Montgomery, along with assistants David Carle and Tavis MacMillan, helped run drills for the first 40 minutes, followed by a resurfacing of the ice before splitting the group into two teams for a full 40-minute scrimmage.
"It's been tiring," Stastny said when asked about the camp. "We do a lot of fast-paced drills. I think it's good to kind of get back into some practice habits. When you have more guys that are going at a faster pace, I think you get that conditioning back. You can get rid of the rust and get rid of some of the summer habits.
"Monty and his staff have done a good job of being here for us and taking time out of their day to help us do this even though they don't have to. We're very grateful for that situation."
While the players are spread out around North America with their respective teams during the season, DU's alumni pro camp gives the guys an opportunity to stay in shape and catch up with former teammates for the week.
"It's great," said New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (DU: 2011-2013). "I get back here for most of the summer so I get to see everyone quite a bit. Some of the guys don't get back as much, so it's nice seeing everyone and getting to spend some time together."
Many players have developed lifelong friendships from playing hockey at DU and often keep in touch with their old teammates.
"Most of my best friends are guys that I played with at DU," Bozak said. "We've all stayed in touch and kept our friendships going. It's really fun when we get together as a full group and spend some time together.
"It's always fun," Stastny added. "I think the bond is something that never goes away, whether it's with hockey or going to DU. So many guys come back every year and end up trying to stay here for the whole summer. A lot of these guys call this place home and everyone's proud of it. That's what makes it special."
The camaraderie among the players throughout the week also gave them time to bring back some of their favorite moments and reflect on their playing days here in Denver.
When asked about his favorite memory from playing for the Pioneers, Mayfield said: "Definitely the CC games. Those are definitely the best. I think I got kicked out of one of them so that wasn't the best (laughs). But the other ones, to win the Gold Pan and everythingâ€¦playing CC here and even there, it's quite an experience."
"There are so many memories from when I played here," said Bozak. "My first year when we won the WCHA Final Five in Minnesota. I remember we had 13 freshmen in our class, so it was fun. All of us were a part of the team. The older guys took us in and it was a blast."
Stastny also has many fond memories of growing up and playing here at DU, and he will always remember the friendships formed not just with his teammates, but with the other Pioneer sports teams as well.
"I have a ton of memories," he said. I think it's more about the guys. I've always had a blast with all of the guys. When you win with a certain group of players, I think those guys remain friends forever and you always have that bond you can cherish. From the coaching staff to all the hockey guys, lacrosse guys, soccer guys, I bonded with a lot of them and I'm still friends with a lot of them. It's something I'll never forget. It'll be 10 years now this year, but it feels like it was yesterday."
Story written by Samantha Rogan (@SamanthaRogan)