DENVER — The University of Denver’s hockey team has been described as young but successful. It’s a theme that starts at the top.
“I think age really is a number, and it really comes down to who you are as a person and your ability to build relationships,” says Pioneers head coach David Carle.
At 29 years old, Carle is the youngest head coach in college hockey. There are still a few months left to go in the season, but right now, the Pioneers are ranked 7th in the country with a 14-6-3 overall record. It’s a strong start in Carle’s first season as the head coach at DU.
“We have a lot of young guys on our team and I think he can really tap into their heads, make them better as players and find out what makes them tick,” says junior forward Liam Finlay.
Despite his age, Carle came to his new position with 10 years of experience as an assistant coach, thanks to the unexpected news that changed his life a decade ago.
“World was flipped upside down,” Carle remembers. “I was diagnosed with a heart condition [and] it was too risky to play the sport.”
In an instant, he went from being an 18-year-old prospect committed to play at Denver to learning he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
“Fortunately for me, it’s not a super serious case of the condition,” he says. “I’m able to live a normal life. I just can’t play hockey.”
After learning his playing days would be cut short, the Pioneers honored Carle’s scholarship and made him a student coach.
“Everyone faces challenges and adversity in life. It’s just a matter of when it happens. For me, it happened at the age of 18. My life was put on a different path. I think you have to believe and trust that’s the path you’re supposed to be on and make the most of it.”
And he has made the most of it. From student to teacher, Carle has embraced the detours that led him to the head coaching job at DU.
“I just think you do the best you can living in the moment you’re in. I learned that at 18, I thought I had the next 25-40 years of my life planned out. Would I liked to have played hockey for longer? Yes, certainly I would. But life’s pretty good at 29 as it is right now,” Carle said.