Sports at DU: A Unique American Experience

Hockey

Possibly the sport that DU is most well known for, the hockey team are multiple year NCAA Frozen Four champions, and many of DU’s notable alumni are NHL (National Hockey League) players who started off as Pioneers. Hockey started in Canada in the early 1800s, and its origins are debated to this day but it’s been argued that Scottish migrants started the game by playing on frozen lakes during the long Canadian winters. 

Though in Europe and Asia it’s more common to play and watch field hockey, in the US hockey is played on ice with a puck and not a ball. Sticks are slightly longer and have a flatter end, as opposed to the bulkier curved end of a field hockey stick. The goal is ultimately the same, aiming to guide the puck into the other team’s net, which switches sides at the beginning of each of the three 20 minute periods. 

DU’s official game rink is Magness Arena, a large crimson and gold olympic sized rink in the middle of the Ritchie center, which is the University’s sports facility. You’ll notice that Magness has a dedicated student seating section for pioneers, which you can buy discounted tickets for, or even camp out to receive a golden ticket that gives you entry to every home game that season! There are also free crimson tickets given out every Wednesday at 9am before home games, which will be linked in more detail below.

Despite being a hockey-loving school, DU only has a D1 men’s team, which means they play competitively at the highest level of college leagues. Women’s hockey at the school only exists in club form, but the latter part of this blog will explain how you can go about joining, and will provide some insight from students who joined club sports!

A hockey game at DU

Lacrosse

Lacrosse is a northern American sport with its roots in Native American and Canadian games being played as early as 1100AD, and was fully established as a sport by the seventeenth century in present-day Canada. It’s a team sport which involves carrying a stick with a sort of scoop head, made out of material that looks like a tennis racket. 

The rules of men’s and women’s lacrosse are really quite different, similar to hockey in the fact that women’s lacrosse does not permit body contact and the only protective gear worn is a mouth guard and an eye guard, made of metal caging.

Also similar to hockey (and many other sports) is the objective, which is to get the ball into the other team’s section using your stick, and score a goal.

DU lacrosse compete at the D1 level, which is the highest level in college athletics and is governed by the NCAA. It was founded in 1966, and went D1 in 1998. As such, DU has been playing at this high level for over 20 years now and continues to compete against college lacrosse giants such as Duke university.

Their schedule is available online, and games begin in February.

Skiing

DU is situated about an hour’s drive from some very scenic and exhilarating ski slopes in and around the Rockies, for example Keystone or Breckenridge. You can drive a little further if you want, and reach the picturesque town of Vail, about 45 minutes from Breckenridge. Vail is complete with an outdoor ice rink in winter, and quaint Swiss-themed architecture, all against the backdrop of Colorado’s breathtaking mountain ranges. Mind the altitude though, as towns like Vail, Breckenridge and Alma are almost double the footage above sea level that even Denver is- the highest of the three being Alma at a staggering 10,361ft.

When asked, skiers at DU claimed to be the biggest fans of Vail and Breck, but Keystone came a close third. They described Breckenridge as a fun town, and being family friendly with lots to do before and after runs on the slopes. Breck has some great food options too, running the gamut from traditional American BBQ and burgers, to European lodge-house themed eateries and East-Asian cuisine. Vail, although a little further away, has more to offer for the dedicated skier. Saying that you couldn’t ski it all if you tried is an understatement, so if you’re looking for something new every time then Vail may be the place for you. Maybe even give the Blue Sky Basin a shot, which has been referred to as some of Colorado’s best skiing! When you’re done, come and grab a hot chocolate in one of the lodge houses and enjoy the scenery or shopping while it’s lit up at dusk. Keystone was also a fan favourite, described as “having something for everyone”. It’s hard to deny that, with the numerous children’s events going on alongside regular skiing. However, the events aren’t reserved for children, as Keystone runs costume parties and music festivals as well as events centred around food. 

DU has a very successful skiing team, but if you weren’t planning on trying out to be a mini Lindsey Vonn, you can always join Alpine Club! Alpine club was founded in 1928, and is DU’s longest standing club. They run around 30 trips every year, and have over 350 members so there are plenty of friends to make! Alpine club is open to everyone, if you’ve never seen snow before or if you’re planning on going to the winter olympics and bringing back a gold.

Absence of football

DU, despite being in the home of the Broncos (Colorado’s football team), does not actually have an American football team like its larger non-private counterparts. CU Boulder and CSU, two large public Colorado schools, have well known football teams that play in huge stadiums within their respective campuses (Boulder and Fort Collins). 

Actually, DU used to have a football team which was actually fairly successful in the first half of the last century, but it was dissolved in 1961 for financial reasons and they played their final season in the Fall/Winter of 1960. Now, DU has put more emphasis on their rugby team. DU has both mens and womens rugby, and both teams compete for the school. Although the sports are similar, they’re not quite the same and rugby is more of a European sport that often isn’t played on American college campuses.

Using the Ritchie Center

The Ritchie Center is DU’s on-campus one stop shop for all things sports. The complex houses a state of the art gym facility, the Coors Fitness Center, two NHL sized ice rinks which open up several times a week for public skating (when they aren’t hosting NCAA hockey games), a pool which students can freely swim in or join clubs like water polo, and much more! The Ritchie Center also offers many free classes, tailored to lots of interests and intended to keep you fit and having fun. If you’re a DU student, you’re in luck- you get all of that for free! Visit the gym whenever you want to blow off some steam by lifting some weights, or sign up for a beginners Vinyasa yoga class with your friends to get your Saturday morning started the right way! It’s up to you, but fitness is at your fingertips with access to some of the best machinery and sports resources this side of the Rockies.

The Ritchie Center is also the go-to center for club sports, and you can expect to have most team meetups or practices in and around the building (except for the likes of Alpine club, as it’s not super easy to get a mountain indoors).

The Ritchie Center

Club sports/Just for fun

DU has a wide range of club sports, and intramural sports which you can join if you’re not quite able to compete at the D1 level (don’t worry, I’m definitely not either). Intramural sports are a little less rigid and committed than club sports, and you’re even free to start new teams with your friends if you can’t find something you like listed on the quarterly sports page. However, with options like broomball, pond hockey and ultimate frisbee depending on which quarter you’re interested in, it would be hard not to find something you could take part in and love! All students are able to join intramural sports, with the $30 purchase of a Player Pass. These can be bought throughout the year, and give you access to any intramural sport you choose to play!

On the other hand, club sports are a more serious and competitive way to get involved with teams at DU. There are currently 29 club sports, including women’s ice hockey, club volleyball, club cycling and many more. The teams are self organised, but have coaches and compete at the state, regional and national levels! Clubs are also quite a bit more expensive to join, but this cost will vary depending on which club you choose to be a part of. The cost of joining a club covers equipment, coaching, travel and more so it’s expected that it would be a little steeper. However, a quick note- not ALL clubs are competitive!

Regardless of whether you want to join a club or intramural sport, DU is guaranteed to have something for you, and exchange students are also more than welcome to apply.

Climbing/Hiking

Colorado is also home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the States. You’ll likely hear people talking about ‘14ers’, which are mountains whose peaks are above 14,000ft. Many people travel to Colorado from all over the place to experience the feeling of observing the state from their peaks, and although it’s incredibly worth it they do require a fair amount of preparation and fitness. Mt. Quandary is a popular 14er amongst students, but again it’s best to not hike these kind of trails in winter and to also know what you’re getting into when you take them on. Leaving at around 5 or 6 in the morning is key, ensuring you’ll get back in the late afternoon and will be down before it’s dark.

For people who enjoy hiking but perhaps aren’t seasoned climbers, Colorado has plenty to offer as well. Some favourites include Chautauqua Park in Boulder and Mohawk Lake in Breckenridge. These are both mid-level hikes that require a normal level of fitness and some pretty sturdy boots. Having done the former hike myself, I can vouch that you want to be taking a couple of hours out of your day just to get up and down (and allow for wrong turns, like the one I took!).

DU specifically doesn’t have a hiking organisation, but you can easily join club climbing which is a Ritchie Center affiliated club. They are a competitive club however, so there would be tryouts to qualify for membership. If you are interested, they have two practice sessions a week and primarily practice at indoor climbing centers during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters.

Author: Georgia Kyriacou

Editor: Ronnie Cheng

Learn more about other international student experiences at the University of Denver:

6 Useful Resources at DU Every Student at DU Needs to Know

Student Community at the University of Denver

Tips on packing to study abroad


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