The UMD Bulldogs play their last game at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center tonight before moving over to the brand-spanking new Amsoil Arena just a Brett Hull snapshot away. I’ve been a Dogs fan since ’96 so I’ve got a handful of memories of the old girl. The year I attended UMD and had season tix in section 16 constitutes many of those memories.
My 1st game at the DECC was vs. Army in October of ’96, and the Dogs got shellacked. That turned out to be ok because it gave freshman goalie Brant Nicklin his shot in net which turned into 4 years of “Nicklin Nicklin” chants.
Then there was my first Gopher series. Man, that was an amazing experience. The most intense sporting event I had ever been to in my early life. I was in love.
Best hockey game I ever attended was of course in the DECC, the ’98 WCHA first round playoffs, game 3. Dogs down 4-0 to the Gophers with somewhere around 14 minutes left to play, and they come out of nowhere to score 4 send it to OT. Game winner on a bat out of midair goal by senior Mike Peluso in his last game at the DECC. Craziness, and SO much fun.
Best comedic moment was Joe Rybar making snow angels on the ice after losing an edge and falling over in the face-off circle.
There were a handful more trips to Duluth in the years after school. I remember bringing my future wife up for a Gopher series in our first year of courtship, making trips up by myself in the lean years to go with friends still attending UMD, dragging my dad up for a game, making a weekend trip with my non-hockey-loving cousin who came mostly to drink beer, and making a drive up just in time for a game and driving back to the cities right after, with a stop at Black Bear for a little poker.
My last game at the DECC is probably my favorite though, because we brought our then 4 month old daughter. Amsoil was still just a dream and I had no idea it would the last time I’d see a game there, but it turns out to be a fitting full-circle memory.
There’s many reasons a new place is needed in Duluth. After tonight there’ll be no more talk of the small rink, cramped restrooms, outdated scoreboard, inadequate concessions, and lack of corporate suites. I’m looking forward to getting into Amsoil Arena hopefully later this winter and I’m sure I’ll love it.
So tonight I’ll pay $8 to watch grainy B2 video of the last UMD game at the DECC and remember the barn. I’m going to miss the old girl.