In just his second year as the Pioneers head coach, DU hockey’s David Carle has his squad in the top five in the nation across several rankings and headed toward what they hope is another appearance in the NCAA’s Frozen Four and a shot at a national championship.
This week, 104.3 The Fan caught up with Carle as the team’s facilities at Magness Arena to chat about his abrupt end to his playing career, his journey at DU and the Pioneers future.
Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan digital content producer Johnny Hart: Your younger brother, Alex, played for Merrimack College and, although they’re not in the same conference, you two have faced off during your time as a coach at DU. What was that experience like?
DU Pioneers hockey head coach David Carle: They came here. They beat us, actually, in our building. It was his junior year. Anyhow, that was our team that was trying to go back-to-back. We had a lot of really good players. (Troy) Terry, (Henrik) Borgstrom, (Dylan) Gambrell, (Logan) O’Connor all came back. Yeah, they actually beat us in our building. And then last year, my first year being a head coach, we went out there and played them and we were able to return the favor to them.
It was a lot of fun. We joked about dumping pucks into his corner and, you know, stuff like that. But I’m really proud of Alex and everything he was able to do in his career at Merrimack and get a full-ride and get his education paid for. It was really cool.
Hart: Did he lord it over you a little bit for that one year?
Carle: For the one summer, yeah. But it would be called an upset, for sure. He wasn’t afraid to chirp a little bit, which he should. He earned bragging rights. But it’s the only time any of us had actually played against each other in anything.
Hart: After a pre-draft EKG showed you have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a potentially fatal condition for athletes, your career was cut short at age 18. Do you have any anger about that?
Carle: It just kind of is what it is. It’s out of my control in every way possible. So, you just try to have faith and trust in the path and the plan that you’re on. And things worked out just fine.
Hart: The Tampa Bay Lightning still drafted you that year in the seventh round of the NHL Draft and then-Denver head coach George Gwozdecky honored your scholarship here. What feelings do you get from that?
Carle: A lot of gratitude, which is probably the biggest one. You know, Tampa didn’t have to do that by any means. You know, I think every year the draft comes by, you probably appreciate it a little bit more. You also realize how big it was of them to do that. I mean, we have seventh-round picks on our team who are really good hockey players. And that’s only how many rounds there are in the draft. So, for them to use one of those picks to make me feel good means a lot.
And then, obviously, what Denver did, George being a big part of that, but Peg Bradley-Doppes, our AD, and Ron Grahame, our associate AD at the time, were big factors in it. They gave me a home in really my darkest hours as a human, gave me a family and a place to come to kind of have a second life in the sport. So, I’m really grateful to both. They helped me land on my feet in a big way.
Hart: You’re kind of filling some big shoes here. George Gwozdecky is a legend and Jim Montgomery was kind of this rising star. DU is a seminal program in college hockey. Do you feel that pressure at all? Does it weigh on you at all?
Carle: Not really, honestly. You just try to do the best you can with the job you have and be authentic in it. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by really good people in the administration and in this locker room. It’s not like it’s hard to recruit to Denver. It’s a great school. It’s a great city. There’s a ton of tradition that’s been laid as a foundation before us. So, I’m really blessed to have a great staff and great players to coach. I think it kind of takes care of itself a lot of the time.
Hart: I’m sure you get this question all the time, and it’s probably super annoying, but you are fairly young. And I think Tyson McLellan is your oldest player. He’s about five years younger than you, about your brother’s age. How do you manage that? You’re an authority figure to these kids, who aren’t really kids, who are pretty close to your age
Carle: When I first got the job here, there were players older than me. When I was an assistant coach. So, it’s not like it’s anything new. I just don’t know any different. I started as a student assistant as an 18-year-old, coaching guys who were 23. So, three, four years older than me. So, I don’t know, I’ve never really thought much of it. I’ve always just tried to be honest and authentic and say what I believe and be a good person and treat people with respect. I don’t really care how old you are. That usually works, regardless of any age gap. So, I don’t know, I’ve never put a lot into me being close in age to our players because I just think you’re the person you are and your life experiences are what they are. And you’re either good at what you do or you’re not. I don’t think age has much to do with it.
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