Jan. 7, 2010
Tonight, Duluth shows off its ‘Heritage’
By Kevin Pates
The Heritage Sports Center’s artistic beauty
will be beamed to hockey fans throughout Minnesota today by Fox
Sports North television.
The $19 million, two-building complex at 29th
Avenue West and Michigan Street, which opened in the spring of 2008,
has its first statewide exposure in a high school boys doubleheader
— Duluth East facing Blaine at
6 p.m. followed by Duluth Denfeld playing Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at
8 p.m. on Charter cable channel 37, DirecTV 668 and Dish Network
The 1,200-seat rink in the brick-encased Heritage
Arena is surrounded by history with wonderfully detailed photos,
banners, uniforms, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia, and
a list of names saluting Duluthians who have gone through the youth,
high school and college ranks. This is the second season the building
has served as a home for the city’s youth and prep teams.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like
it. The effort by so many people in the community has given us something
very special,” said Don Bourdeau, who coached Duluth East
for 17 years and Cloquet for five.
Bourdeau, 79, was among a group of five Denfeld
graduates to recently tour the Heritage Center at the invitation
of fundraising committee chairman Pat Francisco, also from Denfeld.
Francisco wanted to make sure some of his hockey heroes and pioneers
got a chance to view the city’s latest and greatest venue.
Part of the tour was videotaped by FSN North.
Also in the group were Milt Boyat, 86, who began
his playing career after being in the U.S. Army; his brother Bob
Boyat, 79, who spent 1954-55 as Minnesota Duluth’s coach;
Frank Johnson, 79, Proctor’s first head coach and an assistant
and head coach at Morgan Park High School; and Alex Sisto, 75, a
former Morgan Park head coach. All but Milt Boyat played hockey
“I’m amazed at all the extra little
things in the rink that make it so appealing, so comfortable,”
said Bob Boyat, who retired in 1990 as Stowe Elementary principal
and worked as a high school hockey referee.
The Denfeld-connected group participated in Duluth
hockey from outdoor rinks, to the old Duluth Curling Club on London
Road, to Peterson Arena, to the Duluth Arena and the adjoining Pioneer
During the era of outdoor competition, high school
games would be played unless temperatures were colder than 15-below
zero, said Johnson, a retired math teacher, who coached for 25 years
and spent 25 years as a high school event manager at the Duluth
Entertainment Convention Center.
When Sisto was Morgan Park’s coach for 18
years (before the school merged with Denfeld), the team’s
rink, for a time, was next to the school and he remembers many below-zero
“You reminded the students they were playing
a game and having fun, and you tried to enjoy everything no matter
what the temperature was,” said Sisto, a retired industrial
Milt Boyat played basketball at Denfeld in an
era before hockey was a varsity sport. After being discharged from
the U.S. Army in 1946, he became a firefighter and played senior
hockey in Hibbing and Duluth making as much as $75 a game. In 1977,
at age 54, he played in a no-check benefit game in Winnipeg, Manitoba,
and got rave reviews from NHL Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, who was
a guest referee.
Bourdeau likes the idea that Duluth’s prep
teams now have a place to call home, even though there were many
glorious moments at the DECC. Bourdeau’s 1975 East team beat
Cloquet at the DECC to get to the Minnesota high school tournament.
Johnson and Sisto expect to be in the crowd tonight
as the rest of the state gets a look at Duluth’s jewel.
“It’s such a beautiful rink and really
stands as a tribute to all of the players from the city, boys and
girls, who ever played the game,” Johnson said.