Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Born a Bearded DU Fanatic in 1969, He's Finally Old Enough to Join the Freshman Class

(above) All the photos in this posting appeared in the original 1986 Clarion article

LetsGoDU: In March of 1986 the DU hockey team advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 1973. Needless to say euphoria swept over DU, and the main beneficiary was Denver Boone.

From: Denver Clarion

October 2, 1986

He stands about five inches tall in his natural state - not very impressive for a legend.

He'll turn 18 years old in April, but he's lived through enough trials and tribulations for two lifetimes.

He was an orphan child, all but forgotten during his infancy in the early 1970's. He made a brief comeback as he entered his teens, but found himself on the verge of extinction in 1984.

He's been walked on, spit at, put aside, shunned and criticized as a wimp by his most loyal friends.

But through it all, Denver Boone endures - with a perpetual smile as wide as the DU Arena and an undying enthusiasm for his university.

There is little question that Boone, the Walt Disney-created successor to Pioneer Pete, has survived some turbulent times at DU.

He has often taken the unnecessary brunt of a university just now recovering from a deeply-rooted image problem. However, Boone has been able to put behind him any controversy to become the symbol of a revived University of Denver.


Way back in 1910, DU's sports teams came to be known as the "Pioneers," and with the new nickname came the school's first mascot - Pioneer Pete.

Pete was little more than a cheerleader with a beard and a coonskin cap. His character portrayed a trapper, revived from Colorado's early pioneer days.

DU was trying to get into "big-time" football and Pioneer Pete was one of several additions to the sport's image. The same year the size of the marching band band was increased from 40 to 120.

Pete flourished with the success of the school and although every effort was made to let him work with all varsity sports, he became the symbol of the football program.

At the outset of the 1960's, DU's football program fizzled, and with it went the Pioneer Pete mascot.


Hockey interest built at a break-neck speed at DU during the 1960's, and the school began its search for a mascot for the hockey program. Surprisingly, DU's new mascot was the brainchild of a basketball coach.

The coach was Stan Albeck, who coached DU during the late '60's and went on to become the head coach of the ABA Denver Rockets, and NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls.

Albeck was inspired by Walt Disney characters and got in touch with a Disney artist through a DU contact.

Disney Studios drew up the designs for DU (the only group licensed to use the Boone character) and give it to the Theatre Department, which developed the first costume.

The next task was naming the new mascot.

The Special Events Committee held a contest in the fall of 1968 to find a nickname for the new Pioneer Pete.

Steve Kiley, then a junior mass communications major, won the contest with the "Denver Boone" title. According to a Clarion account of the story, Kiley thought of the name "while exercising his elbow and looking at the bottom end of a glass."

Doug Hirsh volunteered to help out the effort and soon became the first in a long line of Denver Boones.


Since 1969, Boone has been the official mascot of the sports program and, specifically, the hockey team. Many of DU's sports uniforms during the 1970's and very early '80's depicted the Boone on the front.

However, Boone's very existence nearly came to a tragic end in during the 1983-84 school year as a somewhat insecure student body rejected the "wimpy" Boone and strove for a more masculine prototype.

Efforts to replace Boone, which included a contest sponsored by the Clarion, proved unsuccessful as very few alternative mascots were developed.

Then in 1985 and '86 as the hockey team rose back to power, insecurities turned back into pride. A poll among students showed that a vast majority were not ready to get rid of their lovable mascot after all. Boone has weathered the storm, once again.

It was now officially time to reintroduce Boone to the DU public and Lamda Chi president Pete Castro came to the forefront to become DU's latest skating mascot.

Castro had little skating experience but made up for it with an intense drive to see Boone survive and flourish.

After passing out flyers at hockey games explaining why DU should save Boone, Castro took it upon himself to haul the decrepit Boone head out of storage, give it a fresh paint job and continue a long standing Pioneer mascot tradition.

Castro is gone, having graduated with the class of 1986, but DU students will have a chance to take his place when Boone tryouts are held Monday, Oct. 6 and Tuesday, Oct. 7.

For one lucky student, it will be the chance of a lifetime - to be an identity for the university, a source of enthusiasm for the student body and a hero to hundreds of wide-eyed children.

For Denver Boone, it will be an opportunity to once again return to where he belongs - at center ice of the DU Arena, sharing a smile with 5,000 of his closest friends.

(Above) The Clarion two-page spread included a "Boone Tryout Application"

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