DU Alum Honored For Lifetime of Achievements
Craig Patrick receives distinguished alum award
“DU is very special to me, because it’s the best thing I ever did in my life.”
That’s truly saying something for a man who won two NCAA championships, two Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals.
However, Craig Patrick (BSBA ’69) nearly did not come to the University of Denver. He was playing junior hockey in Canada and was planning to go directly into the NHL. That’s when his uncle, a Canadian heavyweight boxing champion and former NHL player and general manager, stepped in.
“When he spoke, I listened to most everything that he said,” Patrick says. “He was one of those types of customers that you don’t mess with.”
It’s difficult to deny that coming to DU was the right decision. Patrick helped lead the Pioneers to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1968 and 1969. “We had a great group of guys. We all pulled for each other, fought for each other, took care of each other, and we were a huge family.”
His success on the ice continued after leaving DU. He played for nearly 10 years in the NHL with five different teams. When he decided it was time to hang up his skates, he landed his first big break off the ice.
Herb Brooks, head coach of the U.S. men’s national ice hockey team, asked Patrick to join his staff as the assistant general manager and assistant coach. Together they managed a team of amateur players that upset the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics and defeated Finland to win the gold medal. The game against the Soviet Union came to be known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
“Because of what happened and the notoriety that we all got, it sure jump-started my career,” Patrick says. Six months later he was back in the NHL as general manager of the New York Rangers. Growing up around hockey, Patrick knew how to find good players. However, it was his business degree from the University of Denver that helped him manage a team.
“Doing budgets for a front office is important and understanding them is important,” he says. “Being in a hockey family and having the education I got at DU was a perfect combination for me.”
Patrick spent the next 35 years working as an NHL general manager and advisor. He also had a two-year stint in the late 1980s as athletic director at DU. His success culminated with two Stanley Cup titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins and becoming the third generation of his family to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Last month he was honored by DU as one of the six distinguished alumni in the class of 2017.
“I’m truly honored and humbled. It’s a nice recognition that I never anticipated,” Patrick says. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have come here, get a degree, meet the people I met and do the things that we did together.”
Of course, Patrick continues to pay close attention to the DU hockey team. He says he hopes they can repeat as champions as his team did. As for his future, Patrick says he hopes it involves the sport that he loves.
“I call myself a free agent, so I’m hoping to get something else in hockey again.”