UMD men’s hockey wins first national title, 2011

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c16 --- The Minnesota Duluth mens hockey team celebrates the overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team celebrates its overtime win over Michigan to win the program’s first national championship on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Saturday – April 9, 2016 – marks the fifth anniversary of the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team winning its first national title with an overtime victory against Michigan at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

UMD senior Kyle Schmidt of Hermantown scored the game-winning goal at 3:22 of the overtime period to give the Bulldogs the win and the title.

Here’s how it looked on the cover of the next day’s News Tribune:

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And here’s how the winning goal looked on TV:

Here are links to News Tribune stories on the game:

Game story by Kevin Pates

Fan reaction story by John Lundy

Column by Rick Weegman

Column by Rick Lubbers

Follow-up column by Kevin Pates

Follow-up story by Kevin Pates

And here are a few more News Tribune photos from the game:

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c11 --- Kyle Schmidt (7) of Minnesota Duluth reacts after scoring the winning goal in overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Kyle Schmidt (7) of Minnesota Duluth reacts after scoring the winning goal in overtime to beat Michigan and lift UMD to its first men’s hockey national championship on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c14 --- J.T. Brown of Minnesota Duluth celebrates the overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

J.T. Brown of Minnesota Duluth celebrates the Bulldogs’ overtime win over Michigan to win UMD’s first hockey national championship on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c12 --- Justin Faulk (25) of Minnesota Duluth reacts to the overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Justin Faulk (25) of Minnesota Duluth reacts to the Bulldogs’ overtime win over Michigan to claim UMD’s first men’s hockey national championship on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c13 --- Scott Sandelin of Minnesota Duluth reacts to the overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Coach Scott Sandelin of Minnesota Duluth raises the trophy after the Bulldogs won the men’s hockey program’s first national title on April 9, 2011 in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c9 --- Kyle Schmidt (7) of Minnesota Duluth reacts after scoring the winning goal in overtime win over Michigan to win Minnesota Duluth's first mens hockey national championship Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. UMD won 3-2 in overtime. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Kyle Schmidt (7) of Minnesota Duluth reacts after scoring the winning goal in overtime to beat Michigan and lift UMD to its first men’s hockey national title on April 9, 2011 in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c1 --- David Grun of Minnesota Duluth checks a Michigan player during championsip gamea action Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

David Grun of Minnesota Duluth checks a Michigan player during the NCAA men’s hockey title game on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c8 --- Jack Connolly (12) of Minnesota Duluth knocks the puck down near the goal in the third period during championsip game action Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Jack Connolly (12) of Minnesota Duluth knocks the puck down near the goal in the third period against Michigan during the NCAA men’s hockey title game on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

t040911 --- Clint Austin --- austinUMD0410c3 --- Max Tardy (19) of Minnesota Duluth pops his jersey after scoring a goal against Michigan in the second period during championsip game action Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

Max Tardy (19) of Minnesota Duluth pops his jersey after scoring a goal against Michigan in the second period of the NCAA men’s hockey title game on April 9, 2011 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Were you at the game? Watching it on TV? Share your memories of that night by posting a comment.

Last Place on Earth, 1985

April 5, 1985

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Jim Carlson and his macaw, Lapoe, pose for a photo near the Top 30 albums he sells for $4.98 at his Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth in a photo taken April 2, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth has some great bargains in records

Bob Ashenmacher, Duluth News-Tribune

How do they do it?

How does the Last Place on Earth record store at 102 E. Superior St. sell the Top 30 albums and cassette tapes for $4.98 when many record stores charge $8.98?

“We’re losing money on the $4.98 price,” said owner Jim Carlson of Duluth. “Our wholesale price is $5.75 and with freight and handling you’re supposed to come out at about $6 to break even. The suggested list (price) is $8.98.” Some of the latest popular releases, such as the current albums by Foreigner and Duran Duran, are as high as $9.98 in some stores, Carlson said.

The $4.98 albums and tapes are what’s called a “loss leader” item, meaning they lose a certain amount of money for the store but bring in patrons who end up buying other items, ultimately increasing business and spurring profits.

The Last Place on Earth’s moneymakers are other albums priced at $7.50 and merchandise such as smoking paraphernalia, posters, T-shirts and martial arts supplies.

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, December 1985 (News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, December 1985 (News-Tribune file photo)

“I got the idea from a record magazine,” Carlson said. “A store in Florida did it and just increased business tremendously.”

The gambit has worked, he said. Since implementing it on March 4, the store’s fourth anniversary, “we’ve done almost as good as Christmas, and March should be a dead month.”

In the last year Carlson has increased his work force from four full-time employees to eight full-time and one part-time. His current location has three times the floor space and double the inventory of his old storefront, down the street a bit.

The record companies don’t mind his low prices, he said, “because if a kid goes up to Musicland he gets one record for $10. He comes down here and gets two records for $10, so they move twice as much product.”

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Last Place on Earth, as seen when it was located at 33 E. Superior St. in 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth, as seen when it was located at 33 E. Superior St. in 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune file photo)

The Last Place on Earth was located at 102 E. Superior St. when that story ran in 1985; it had moved to 33 E. Superior St. — the building seen above — by 1994.

In 1996, that building was facing condemnation — it’s now the location of the Technology Village building — and Carlson moved a block down the street to 120 E. Superior St. That’s where Last Place on Earth would remain until it was shut down by authorities in 2013. Carlson is serving a 17½-year prison sentence on charges that he sold illegal synthetic drugs out of the building.

The building at 120 E. Superior St. now is slated to house a brewery and taproom for Blacklist Artisan Ales.

Some more photos of the Last Place on Earth buildings can be found below; click on any of the images with this post for a larger view. Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

August 1994 view of Last Place on Earth, 33 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune file photo)

August 1994 view of Last Place on Earth, 33 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth, as seen in August 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth, as seen in August 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth at 120 E. Superior St. in Duluth, as seen in July 2010. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)

Last Place on Earth at 120 E. Superior St. in Duluth, as seen in July 2010. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)

The building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth that formerly housed Last Place on Earth, as seen in May 2015. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)

The building at 120 E. Superior St. in downtown Duluth that formerly housed Last Place on Earth, as seen in May 2015. (Clint Austin / News Tribune file photo)

40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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A tranquil sunrise over Lake Superior as seen from Canal Park in Duluth on Nov. 10, 2015 – the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Four freighters were visible on the lake at the time. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

Today – Nov. 10, 2015 – is the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in a ferocious storm on Lake Superior. Today’s peaceful sunrise in Duluth was about as far as the weather could get from the conditions four decades ago.

After leaving Superior with a load of taconite, the ship sank on the evening of Nov. 10, 1975, in eastern Lake Superior off Whitefish Point with the loss of all 29 men on board.

The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge in this undated photo from the 1960s. There are people (construction workers?) up on the Blatnik Bridge, so I’m thinking this may be from before it opened in 1961. The Fitzgerald was launched in 1958. So that would put the photo about 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge in this undated photo from the 1960s. There are people (construction workers?) up on the Blatnik Bridge, so I’m thinking this may be from before it opened in 1961. The Fitzgerald was launched in 1958. So that would put the photo about 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

I posted archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

The News Tribune has run several articles in recent days, tied to the anniversary of the wreck. Read them here and here.

The front page of the Nov. 11, 1975 Duluth Herald, reporting news of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The front page of the Nov. 11, 1975 Duluth Herald, reporting news of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Here’s a video that includes recordings of marine radio traffic in the immediate aftermath of the Fitzgerald going missing:

Here’s a video of Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck, including photos and footage of the ship:

And here’s a News Tribune video from 2011, of the annual memorial ceremony held at Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Minnesota. The ceremony will be held again this afternoon; click here for details:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Duluth’s Seven Corners

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An aerial view looking across Seven Corners and down Lower Piedmont Avenue in Duluth on June 7, 2000. (Renee Knoeber / News-Tribune)

Seven Corners was a famous – infamous? – traffic intersection / bottleneck in Duluth, where Piedmont Avenue, Skyline Parkway, Trinity Road and 24th Avenue West all met in a somewhat confusing, jumbled junction.

Why “Seven Corners” when there seem to be only six? I’ve heard that some people considered the Lincoln Park parkway – visible coming up to Skyline Parkway through the trees at lower right – the “seventh” corner. Or is there another reason? Share what you know by posting a comment.

The whole area underwent a major change in the early 2000s as Lower Piedmont Avenue / Trinity Road was converted to a four-lane highway and the junction reworked. What had been one intersection was split into three separate junctions. The traffic bottlenecks are now mostly a thing of the past. Here are some more views of the old Seven Corners / Piedmont area:

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Traffic runs smoothly through the infamous Seven Corners intersection where new traffic lights were turned on in December 1996. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

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Traffic fills the lanes of Lower Piedmont Avenue below Seven Corners on June 7, 2000. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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A line of northbound vehicles extending from Seven Corners down to Tenth Street on Piedmont Avenue waited for more than 20 minutes to finally pass through the intersection on June 19, 1997. Work crews were building a new sidewalk which closed one of the two lanes for much of the day. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

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The Food ‘N Fuel at 1323 Piedmont Ave. (Seven Corners), seen here on Feb. 22, 2001. It had to move because of its position in the path of the expansion of Piedmont Avenue. (Jessica Shold / News-Tribune)

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Construction underway in the Seven Corners area on June 25, 2004. Trinity Road is at upper left; the under-construction Skyline Parkway bridge over Piedmont Avenue is at upper right. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)

What do you remember about Seven Corners? Share your memories by posting a comment.

London Road, circa 1960s

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This view from sometime in the 1960s shows London Road in Duluth, looking west toward the Plaza shopping center, visible at upper right. The steeple of First Lutheran Church can be seen in the distance. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Here’s a zoomed-in view of the Plaza, with a J.C. Penney store in the space now occupied by a Super One grocery store:

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The photographer is standing in front of an out-of-frame gas station. Perhaps it’s the Lakehead Service Center at 1530 London Road, seen in this photo from about the same time:

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You can read more about the gas station here.

What do you remember about that stretch of London Road? What stores do you remember going to at the Plaza? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Panoramic view of Duluth’s police force, circa 1918

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The photo above is a detail from a great panoramic photo posted online by the Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives at the University of Minnesota Duluth. It’s a photo of what must have been the entire Duluth police force – along with some city dignitaries, perhaps – at the Civic Center in downtown Duluth, in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse. Here’s the full image; click and zoom in for a much-larger view:

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You can find an even higher-resolution version here.

The stitched-together image is a bit deceiving; the officers on the far left are facing southeast and the ones at far right are facing northwest; there’s a 180-degree curve concealed in the image.

It’s hard to date the photo exactly, but it’s from between 1910 – when the Alworth Building opened (visible in the distance at right) – and the mid-1920s when Duluth City Hall was built (it opened in 1928 – note that its future location is empty in this view). The archives staff gave it an estimated date of 1918.

A couple of now-vanished buildings are recognizable in the distance:

  • The tall Christie Building about a quarter of the way in from the right – it was demolished in 1980 to make way for the present-day Government Services Center; read more here. In this view it bears the sign of Duluth Business University (see zoomed-in view below).
  • Jackson School, visible above the staircase just left of center – now home to a county parking ramp.

The photo is labeled “Tribune-Duluth” – so it likely was an image shot by a photographer at what is now the Duluth News Tribune.

Here’s what the scene looks like today – taken with my iPhone panoramic photo feature this evening. I’m guessing that saved a lot of time compared to the effort that went into creating a panoramic image in 1918:

photoHere are some zoomed-in views of the original photo:

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The only woman in the image

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A closer view of the Christie Building with its DBU sign.

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Early “photobomb”? – a couple unauthorized individuals managed to get in the photo in the background. One of them is leaning against what appears to be some kind of bulletin board.

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A few more people managed to sneak into the frame at the top of the stairs and behind the shrubs.

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A view of the Alworth Building in the distance, along with the Tribune credit.

What else do you spot in the photo? Share your observations by posting a comment.

Duluth mystery photo

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This photo in the News Tribune files has no caption information; click on the photo for a larger version.

We assume it’s from the mid- to late 1960s. And we can spot a U.S. Highway 61 road sign. Our best guess is that this shows Carlton Street in Duluth’s West End, looking toward the harbor. The ore docks would be to the right of the frame, and Clyde Iron (the present-day Duluth Heritage Sports Center) in the distance to the left of this view.

Can anyone confirm that? Or do you think this photo was taken somewhere else? What other details do you notice in the photo? Share your observations by posting a comment.

Here are two zoomed-in views of the photo above:

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When Duluth’s Lakewalk was a junkyard

1960s

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Walking the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth’s Canal Park now, along the well-used Lakewalk, it’s hard to imagine that just a few decades ago much of that shore was used as a junkyard.

The photo above (click on the image for a larger view) has no caption information, so we don’t know who the men are or just when it was taken. But the First United Methodist Church (coppertop) is visible atop the Hillside, so it’s sometime after the mid-1960s. (If you know who the men are, please post a comment)

The picture was used for some kind of article on cleaning up the city. Here’s another view, looking toward the Duluth Ship Canal:

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After years of cleanup – and fill supplied by the excavation work needed to create the Interstate 35 tunnels in downtown Duluth – the Lakewalk opened in 1988.

Gradually, the industrial businesses in Canal Park closed or moved elsewhere. The last one – Duluth Spring Co. – relocated its remaining Canal Park employees in 2008; the site is now home to Canal Park Brewing Co.

That photo above, looking over junked cars toward the ship canal… here’s a view of what the Lakewalk looks like in that area today:

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Here’s a previous Attic post that shows some of Canal Park’s industrial past:

Northwestern Iron & Metal, 1978

Share your memories of the Lakewalk – or what preceded it – by posting a comment.

10 years ago tonight: Zamboni explodes, Peterson Arena burns

Tonight – Dec. 19, 2014 – marks the 10th anniversary of the night a Zamboni exploded and sparked a fire that destroyed Peterson Arena in West Duluth. Thanks to Perfect Duluth Day for the reminder of the anniversary.

Here’s a look back at some stories and photos from the News Tribune files, starting with this story and photos that ran the next day – Dec. 20, 2004:

Duluth firefighters run hoses to battle a fire at Peterson Arena after a Zamboni exploded on Dec. 19, 2004. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

BLAST, FIRE GUT ARENA

By Christa Lawler, News Tribune

A Zamboni exploded Sunday night inside Peterson Arena in West Duluth, starting a fire at the ice rink at Wheeler Fields.

About 30 people — two broomball teams and a handful of fans — were inside the building at the time of the explosion. One player was taken to the hospital. The extent of his injuries was not known.

A small blast at 9:40 p.m. was followed by a larger explosion, which knocked the doors off the boards surrounding the ice surface onto the ice.

Spectator Cade Ledingham, who was in the arena and witnessed the explosion, estimated that four players were thrown from the ice by the blast.

The building was quickly evacuated and the players watched the fire from a small warming house about 30 yards away. Both teams confirmed that all of their players and fans were accounted for, but all of their belongings — including street clothes, keys and even shoes — were inside the burning building.

The Duluth Police Department blocked off busy Grand Avenue as fire crews struggled to battle the fire. The temperature hovered near zero at the time of the explosion.

Duluth firefighters battle a fire at Peterson Arena after a Zamboni exploded on Dec. 19, 2004. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

By 10:15 p.m., the fire had engulfed the north side of the building, at 3501 Grand Ave. Police cleared out the warming house when it looked like the fire might reach nearby power lines. Power was cut to the area at 10:25 p.m. A Duluth Transit Authority bus was brought in to pick up the players.

Joe Buckley, the Zamboni driver, said he was sweeping up when the blast occurred. He thought propane tanks had caused the explosion.

A Zamboni is a vehicle used to resurface ice.

Player Ryan Ringsred, who was bandaged, had picked small pieces of Plexiglas from the back of his neck. He was on the ice when the explosion occurred.

“I was facing the boards when they blew up,” Ringsred said. “I was on the ice and the Zamboni blew up behind me. I was flat on the ice.”

Even his helmet was dented.

“It’s brand new,” he said. “It did its job, I guess.”

There were about seven minutes left in the broomball game between the Rapid Fire and Budweiser teams when the blast occurred.

“These are two teams that battle every year for the league championship,” said player Dave Reyelts, who was in the penalty box at the time. “It puts things in perspective. When it happened, guys from both teams were grabbing each other. Even in rivalry, the guys were looking out for each other.”

Brandon Kolquist, another player, also had small cuts on the back of his neck.

“I just got blown over the boards with the explosion,” he said. “It was crazy. Everybody was trying to hit one door at the same time.”

Here’s a follow-up story and photos that ran Dec. 21, 2004:

Duluth firefighters inspect the interior of Peterson Arena on Dec. 20, 2004, after a major fire the night before. (Bob King / News Tribune)

YOUTH HOCKEY LOSES RINK; DAMAGE MAY BE $850,000

By Mark Stodghill and Scott Thistle, News Tribune 

The loss of one of its two indoor hockey arenas is a major blow to the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association.

“We’re down a facility, and this is the prime time of the season,” DAHA Executive Director Clarke Coole said. “This is going to impact our program enormously.”

Coole met with Duluth city officials Monday to discuss the explosion and fire that destroyed Peterson Arena on Sunday night in the midst of a broomball game.

DAHA serves more than 800 youth hockey players, and tournaments were scheduled every weekend in the building through January, February and two weeks in March, Coole said.

The building’s loss also creates a hardship for Duluth high school boys and girls hockey teams, who practiced at Peterson, Coole said.

“Right now, we’re looking for a short-term fix to salvage this year,” Coole said. “We’re going to need a lot of city officials’ support for the kids.”

Coole’s organization will try to get ice time from the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Other area youth programs have already offered to help.

“There’s been tons of support from area associations — Cloquet, Proctor, Hermantown, Superior and Mars Lakeview Arena,” Coole said. “They’re asking if there’s anything they can do to help out with bits and pieces (of ice time). The support has been awesome.”

The Duluth Central-Denfeld girls high school hockey team had four practices scheduled at Peterson that must be rescheduled, coach Shawna Davidson said. She’ll talk with DECC officials to see if there are any times available. The team normally practices at the DECC, but had several Wednesdays scheduled at the West Duluth arena because the DECC ice wasn’t available until after 9 p.m.

Kevin Smalley, the Denfeld boys hockey coach, has rescheduled his team’s Peterson practice dates to before school at the DECC, Davidson said.

Exterior view of Peterson Arena in West Duluth on Monday morning, Dec. 20. 2004, after the fire. Broomball players and friends of players (right) leave after looking through the equipment bags for anything salvageable. There was little worth keeping. (Bob King / News Tribune)

INSURANCE QUESTIONS

On Monday night, the Duluth City Council wasted no time in weighing in on the loss. City Attorney Bryan Brown told councilors he was still investigating whether the arena is insured. Although two buildings at the Wheeler Fields athletic complex are insured, the policy is somewhat unclear as to exactly which two, he said.

“We have reported the loss to the insurance company,” Brown said. “I am hoping that the reply is that there is no problem with coverage.”

City Administrative Assistant Mark Winson said that, if necessary, the city could shift some money from next year’s capital improvement budget to help rebuild the arena.

Because of the fire, Councilor Neill Atkins said he would like the city to take another look at what facilities the city insures.

Construction workers with Advanced Restoration and Construction begin work after their lunch break on a protective roof that will cover the fire damage at Peterson Arena on dec. 21, 2004. The protective roof is for insurance purposes. (Amanda Odeski / News Tribune)

DAMAGE $850,000

City fire officials said Monday the blast was probably the result of leaking propane from a Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine. Damage was estimated at $850,000 by city officials, according to a release issued by Mayor Herb Bergson.

Propane used to fuel the Zamboni built up in the resurfacing machine’s storage room. It was eventually ignited by the flame of a gas-fired water heater and exploded, Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm said.

Broomball players and fans, who escaped serious injury, said the initial blast blew the doors to the storage room across the rink, injuring some players. Others were injured by shards of Plexiglas, blasted into their skin. But most of the players were at the opposite end of the rink from the explosion, Strongitharm said.

“I would think it is very fortunate that the explosion happened when the people were away from that door, and they all had the sense to drop their broomball sticks and get out,” Strongitharm said. He said calm, quick thinking by players and fans probably saved lives.
After the initial blast, there were at least two other explosions, which Strongitharm believes may have been caused by empty propane tanks stored in the arena.

Another view of the interior of the Peterson Arena on Monday morning, Dec. 20, 2004 after the devastation of Sunday night’s fire caused by a Zamboni explosion. (Bob King / News Tribune)        

DON’T JUST BLOW UP

Propane is the fuel generally used by resurfacing machines, although some are operated by electric batteries and others use natural gas, said Walt Bruley, who has operated resurfacing machines for more than 30 years.

Bruley, a district representative for the Minnesota Ice Arenas Managers’ Association, said all DAHA resurfacing crews regularly attend safety training.

“They’re one of our star groups when it comes to that,” Bruley said.

It would be highly unlikely that the Zamboni would actually have exploded by itself, he said. The machines are built with safety valves to contain potential propane leaks, he said.

“These things don’t just blow up,” said Bruley, who was on his way to drive a Zamboni at the DECC on Monday afternoon. “There were many things in that room that probably could have blown up besides the machine.”

Propane is generally considered a safer fuel than gasoline because it doesn’t ignite as easily and it has an additive that gives it a distinct smell, making leaks easily detectable. Propane, which is heavier than air, generally sinks to floor or ground level, where it can easily be vented, Bruley said.

“If there was a leak, it would have been something that could have been smelled,” Bruley said. “This is a very, very rare occasion.”

He said Sunday’s explosion was truly a freak incident. “In my 30 years, I’ve never heard of another situation like this,” he said.

Lynn Skafte (left) and Steph Truscott, good friends of the adult broomball team whose equipment was smoke and water-damaged by the Peterson Arena fire, pick through the equipment bags hoping to find some salvageable items on Dec. 20, 2004. (Bob King / News Tribune)

NO FIREFIGHTERS HURT

Firefighters weren’t injured by subsequent explosions, Strongitharm said. A second blast occurred just after a frozen fire hydrant prompted firefighters to seek an alternative water source, Strongitharm said.

“It’s hard to say what impact the frozen hydrant had,” Strongitharm said. “It was freezing cold and it was fully involved when we got there. They did run out of water . . . but right after they ran out of water, the explosion took place.”

Extreme cold and a slope made containing the blaze difficult. “There were a number of falls because we were fighting on a hill, but no major injuries,” Strongitharm said.

The speed at which the fire spread and the heat were remarkable, he said. “It was a surprise,” Strongitharm said.

The fire was so intense that the building’s steel framework bent in places, which may make it unsalvageable. The arena had just been outfitted with new rink boards, which were destroyed in the inferno.

“It doesn’t look good for the building,” Strongitharm said.

The arena’s days may have been numbered anyway. It was proposed to be leveled with other neighboring structures, including a closed gas station and the athletic complex tennis courts, to make way for a proposed $55 million sports complex and community center.

The city project hinges on funding from the $1.5 billion estate of McDonald’s restaurants founder Ray Kroc and his wife, Joan Kroc. They left the money to the Salvation Army to build sports and community complexes nationwide. Salvation Army is expected to announce by spring which communities will get the money.

Staff writers Chuck Frederick, Chad Thomas and Nikki Overfelt contributed to this report.

Peterson Arena was razed and not rebuilt. After a number of years, western Duluth finally got another ice rink when the Duluth Heritage Sports Center opened.

Here’s one more view of Peterson Arena from before the fire, during a horseshoe tournament on July 7, 2001:

Donald Stangland (left) and Tom Warneke, class G horseshoe pitchers participating in the 38th annual Duluth Open Horseshoe Tournament, split hairs determining points during their match Saturday afternoon, July 7, 2001, at Peterson Arena. Stangland beat Warneke, 29-22. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

Share your memories of Peterson Arena by posting a comment.