Aspen rugby icon Bruce Oliphant dies in New Zealand |

Aspen rugby icon Bruce Oliphant dies in New Zealand

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
The Gentlemen of Aspen, here competing in the 2014 Aspen Ruggerfest, lost an original generation player this week with the death of Bruce Oliphant. Oliphant kicked the game-winner to help the Gents with their first Ruggest title in 1971.
Aubree Dallas / The Aspen Times |

An icon of Aspen rugby has died.

Bruce Oliphant, who kicked the game-winning goal to give the Gentlemen of Aspen their first Ruggerfest title, died last week at his home in New Zealand, according to Steve Sherlock, co-founder of the Gentlemen of Aspen.

“It is with infinite sad regret that I must report the death of my dear friend, Bruce Oliphant,” Sherlock said in an email to the sports department at The Aspen Times. “Bruce died at his home in New Zealand.”

Oliphant, after being actively recruited to play rugby for the newly formed Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club, wrote the first major chapter in Aspen tournament history when he kicked the game-winner in the mud at Wagner Park in 1971.

“I remember so well how we ganged up on him at Snowmass, having heard of his rugby reputation,” Sherlock said.

Oliphant was involved in the development and operations of Snowmass resort and later the Snowmass Golf Course.

“There may be one or two of your readers who remember Bruce, Tom Glaccum and me entertaining two large cooperative pigs in the Red Onion one year after Winterskol,” Sherlock said. “An uncomplimentary account was recorded in your fine paper.”

Sherlock said that after giving up rugby, Oliphant continued to play polo until leaving Colorado to live in New Zealand.

“There, he adopted support for the All Blacks (New Zealand’s legendary national rugby team) with the enthusiasm he had always given to every interest,” Sherlock said.

He said Oliphant also will be remembered for his work with Pitkin County parks and the first Aspen athletic club. He also played a crucial role in the early development of rugby in Aspen.

“He was a Gentleman, and we will all miss him,” Sherlock said.

Oliphant’s ashes were scattered on the sea near his home.