About a month ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA arenas are the best. I'm basing my list off of three criteria (Arena, Atmosphere, and Crowd). For a detailed list of what these three items mean to me, click here and scroll down a bit.Here is a list of the arenas that I've already covered:
This week, its arena No. 5: the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, better known as the DECC, which is home to the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.
The DECC is one of the oldest arenas in the WCHA, as it opened over forty years ago in 1966. If you’re a first-time visitor to the building, this fact would not surprise you. The building itself is not the greatest, but has held up okay when you consider the constant wear and tear it’s put through on an annual basis.
As the name would suggest, the DECC is home to several other events aside from the men’s and women’s hockey games. A quick look at the calendar on the DECC’s website would show you things like concerts, plays, craft shows, and even a cook-off occupy the facility at various times throughout the year.
Despite the deficiencies in the quality of the building, the sitelines are some of the very best in the WCHA. There are very few bad seats in the house, as the seating arrangement is basically an elevated bowl. Because it’s a smaller arena, you’ll feel like you’re right on top of the action in a majority of the seats.
Because of the arena’s age, the city of Duluth and UMD are working on getting a new rink built. Many college hockey fans have probably read through the struggles the city and university have had over the last few years in getting the legislation pushed through. For more on that, click here.
Most of the contests I’ve witnessed at the DECC have involved the University of Minnesota taking on the Bulldogs, so my view of the atmosphere may be a bit jaded in this case, but I’ve always found it to be very good at the DECC.
The UMD band is one key reason why the atmosphere is so great. They do a very good job of keeping the crowd fired up, and they also work in concert with the students a great deal to get some fun chants going. I’m sure Minnesota goaltender Jeff Frazee and former Badger Robbie Earl (among others) could attest to this.
With UMD’s struggles over the last few years, opposing team’s fans have had a bit easier of a time getting into the building, so that can dilute the overall atmosphere in a way. Still though, there are plenty of Bulldog fans to be found, and they help make it a great place to watch a hockey game.
As I eluded to in the Atmosphere section, the crowds at the DECC are generally pretty good – if not great – when some of the better WCHA teams come to town. The arena holds about 5,300 onlookers for hockey games, and games against the likes of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota generally result in near-full houses, thanks in part to those schools’ ability to bring fans with them on the road.
For Minnesota games specifically, the students really get into the whole ‘anti-Gopher’ angle, which is great to hear and witness as a fan of the Gophers.
The DECC gets a little higher rating than it possibly deserves from me because it’s one of the last “old rinks” in the WCHA. While the new and modern facilities are nice, there’s something to be said about an old barn like the DECC. You don’t see the rink attendants shooting water out onto the ice with a garden hose at places like Mariucci or the Ralph while the Zamboni is resurfacing the ice.
Overall Grade: B