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50 years of the DECC - DECC memories: Shannon Miller

Minnesota Duluth head coach Shannon Miller and Karine Demeule celebrate after defeating Wisconsin 4-0 to win a national title at the DECC in Duluth on March 22, 2008. (News Tribune file photo)

When I reflect back on everything, the good times and the bad, it’s always the people you think about and when I say people, I’m referring to the players mostly, and then the fans. In 2003, it’s a key memory because we won our third national championship but our first at the DECC in front of a record crowd of 5,167 people. That was an absolutely amazing event. Again, it comes back to the people. It was the players, it was the crowd, it was the city and the university coming together to collaboratively run the best NCAA Division I women’s championship that had ever been held. Not only did we raise the bar with our team by three-peating, I felt the city of Duluth raised the bar in how they hosted that event. I think women’s hockey was never the same after that. It’s truly significant. ...

2008 was also significant. It can’t be as special as 2003 because 2003 was our first one at home. It’s just different. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. One is your first one so it's often sweeter. 2008 was also special because we were at home. We had the pressure to win. We hadn’t won one since 2003 and we were poised for greatness again and I could feel it with the athletes that I had. You often know when you have the right athletes or you don’t. I could feel it, that we had what we needed. We had an amazing coaching staff, just like the coaching staff that was recently fired — all former Olympians. You could just feel the specialness between the coaching staff themselves. It was myself, Caroline Ouellette and Julie Chu. You could feel that we had something special as a staff. We could feel we had something special with our athletes. It’s just like the current under the river. You can’t see it but you know it’s there. It was significant to do that after the short drought we had. To do it in front of the people, our people who were so supportive of us, our fans. I remember the players, I remember the fans, I remember the people. I remember UMD and Duluth just continuing to raise the bar in hosting the national championship. ...

There are so many memories. Even memories where you have to move your players out of a nice locker room and move them into the dirtiest, grossest locker room in the rink so they appreciate what they have. It’s not a fun memory, a lot of people acting up, a lot of people not showing gratitude, a lot of people entitled and some hard lessons had to be taught — so I would move them right out of the nice locker room we had in the DECC into the ugly pink one and they would stay there until they got it. … When I wanted to teach my teams some lessons, that’s where I would put them.

Shannon Miller is the former coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey team, and led the Bulldogs to five national titles — two of them won at the DECC, in 2003 and 2008. She shared these memories with the News Tribune’s Matt Wellens.