After 860 games at the DECC, only two remain for Bulldogs
Two days of practice and two games - that's all that remains for the Minnesota Duluth men at the DECC. On Monday, they'll make the transition to a new hockey home, walking next door through a tunnel to Amsoil Arena. While nostalgia is the byword ...
Two days of practice and two games - that's all that remains for the Minnesota Duluth men at the DECC.
On Monday, they'll make the transition to a new hockey home, walking next door through a tunnel to Amsoil Arena.
While nostalgia is the byword in the final days of the 45-year-old Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, the Bulldogs know the present is staring them in the face.
No. 1-ranked UMD (11-1-2) meets No. 10 Denver (10-4-2) in a first-place showdown in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Bulldogs are 8-1-1 in the league for 17 points and Denver is second at 7-2-1 with
"There isn't a more fitting way for the building to go out than to have a series like this. It's what a building like this deserves after 45 years," said UMD senior defenseman Chad Huttel of Hermantown. "The atmosphere is like being on the center stage of a gladiator stadium, with the fans almost right on top of you. It's a classic, almost irreplaceable feel."
There have been 860 games at the DECC since the opener Nov. 19, 1966. UMD is 458-351-51 in the rink, including 6-0 this season and 30-12-3 the past three years. The Bulldogs had a program-best 24 home wins in 1984-85 on the way to the NCAA tournament for a third straight year and to the Frozen Four for a second straight year.
After being on the road for three of the last four series, UMD is home at the DECC for a last time. An on-ice post-game celebration Saturday will honor the program's heritage.
"There's so much history that it's hard to ignore. Especially on Saturday, when the game is over, it will be something to think about," said senior winger Kyle Schmidt of Hermantown, who, like Huttel, attended games at the DECC while growing up. "But we also know we have a state-of-the-art building to look forward to. That should take care of some of the sadness of leaving the DECC."
Denver comes to Duluth with a six-game win streak, the best in Division I, and as defending regular-season WCHA champion. When the Pioneers were at the DECC last season, on Dec. 11-12, the Bulldogs gained a split with a 6-3 Saturday win. It was Denver's worst loss the final 27 games of the regular season.
UMD, idle last weekend, has won five straight games.
"Duluth deserves to be the No. 1 team in our league and in the country, and I'm sure their crowd is going to be even more energized than usual because of the last games in their building," said Denver coach George Gwozdecky, 57, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and had an occasion to be at the DECC as a teenager.
In six home wins this season, the Bulldogs have outscored Providence, Alaska Anchorage and Michigan Tech 30-11. Sellouts of 5,294 are expected for 7:07 p.m. games Friday and Saturday, followed by nine regular-season games in Amsoil Arena, starting with a grand opening Dec. 30 against North Dakota.
Senior defenseman Trent Palm of Edina, Minn., says he's feeling some pangs about leaving the DECC. He owns a framed print by St. Paul artist Terrence Fogarty entitled Bulldog Hockey Night. The 1998 oil on canvas painting shows a panoramic view of the rink and a number of UMD stars in uniform - Bill Watson, Brett Hull, Tom Kurvers, Norm Maciver, Chris Marinucci and Jim Johnson - and some notables in the stands like coach Ralph Romano and star forward Keith "Huffer" Christiansen.
"One of the reasons I came to UMD was because of the DECC. It's a great place to watch a game and it has a great atmosphere if you're a player," said Palm.
UMD's first hockey home was the $132,000 Duluth Curling Club which opened in 1913 on London Road and installed artificial ice in 1953. The last game there for the Bulldogs was Feb. 18, 1966 before a crowd of just over 2,000. When the DECC opened, marking UMD's second WCHA season, the Bulldogs beat Minnesota 8-1.
Now the countdown has begun to Amsoil Arena.
"At practice Monday I started thinking about it and said to (winger) Mike Seidel 'It's our last week in here,' " said UMD captain Mike Montgomery, a senior defenseman from Lino Lakes, Minn. "There's history and tradition here and hopefully our fans will help us start a new tradition at the new rink."