New arena is new recruiting tool for Bulldogs
In less than a month, Minnesota Duluth has gone from old to new. The oldest rink in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is being replaced by the league's newest rink Thursday as the No. 2-ranked UMD men face No. 3 North Dakota to christen A...
In less than a month, Minnesota Duluth has gone from old to new.
The oldest rink in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is being replaced by the league's newest rink Thursday as the No. 2-ranked UMD men face No. 3 North Dakota to christen Amsoil Arena at 7:37 p.m. in a sold-out game.
UMD men's assistant coach and chief recruiter Brett Larson says the change in venues represents impeccable timing.
"With the team we have and the players already recruited for the next few years, it indicates we're on the right track. When you add a new building, I believe we can compete with anyone on the ice and in recruiting," Larson, a Duluth native and former UMD defenseman, said this week. "Every recruit we've brought through the new arena has been blown away. There are so many things that are an improvement from the DECC and, for the first time, we are able to display our team history."
The main hallways for the men's and women's teams are highlighted by floor-to-ceiling murals with photos from all eras, beginning in 1930. The
45-year-old DECC Arena, which underwent a $1.7 million locker-room-area renovation in 2001, had no such heritage areas.
The UMD men played their last game in the building Dec. 4 and the UMD women Dec. 11. Michigan Tech's John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Mich., built in 1972 and refurbished in 2008 and 2009, is now recognized as the WCHA's oldest rink.
When UMD freshman defenseman Justin Faulk of South St. Paul committed to UMD in 2008, the DECC had just received Legislature approval for Amsoil Arena. The project had just broken ground.
"It was exciting knowing there were plans for something new. Now that we've been in there, from the locker room, to the rink, to the weight room, you see all the tools there that will help you get better. That's enticing," said Faulk, a 2010 NHL Entry Draft second-round pick by Carolina. "But I also liked the idea that, as a freshman, I would be able to have half the season in the old rink. There's a lot of history there."
UMD freshman winger J.T. Brown of Burnsville, Minn., said a new building is an attraction, but there's more to the recruiting process.
"I wanted to go somewhere with a chance to play right away and a chance to win right away. UMD has been winning and that was important," said Brown, UMD's top-scoring freshman. "Knowing there was a nice place to play was also a factor."
Shannon Miller, the only UMD women's coach since the program began in 1999, has succeeded in recruiting globally while winning five NCAA Division I titles. She hopes the Bulldogs are able to put up championship banners from a new era in a new rink.
"When you look around nationally, at newer buildings like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Boston University, you have to believe those rinks make a difference in recruiting. It will make a difference for us," said Miller, whose team opens at Amsoil Arena on Jan. 21-22. "You rely on a tradition of excellence and winning, and top-level facilities."
When the DECC Arena opened in 1966-67, the UMD men were in their second WCHA season and just the sixth at the Division I level. Coach Ralph Romano was asked about the impact of a new building as the Bulldogs moved from the elderly Duluth Curling Club.
"The biggest boost it gives our hockey is that it's kind of a rebirth for the entire program. It should improve our play," Romano told the News Tribune. "With this superbly planned building, we'll have to answer ourselves to the question of whether we can become the best. If we get large crowds, good support and provide good teams, we'll have one of the best hockey programs in the country."