Get down to Xcel Energy Center tonight and enjoy the Wild at home while you can. After tonight, home games are going to be few and far between. The next home matchup will be with Ottawa on December 16, and then a one-game homstand against the Flames (again) on the 20th. After four home games in a week during the final week of December/second day of January, the Wild will play just three more home games in the first month of 2011.
Tonight will mark the third meeting of the season with the Flames, and the second in five days. They face each other two more times this month, meaning they’ll play four times in the span of 21 days.
Niklas Backstrom will return to the cage tonight, while Jose Theodore gets the start in Dallas tomorrow. The lineup will be the same as it was on Wednesday, unless Chuck Kobasew is good to go. He is very close to a return, but Head Coach Todd Richards said he will make that determination later, and he didn’t say who would come out should that happen.
As fans of the Lighthouse know, I shill for only one other team more than I do for the Wild, and that’s the UMD Bulldogs. It’s a bit of an emotional day for me and Bulldog fans throughout the world as the number one team in the nation plays at the DECC for the final two times ever tonight and tomorrow. I have so many fond memories of that building, and it’s tough to believe there won’t be any more.
While it sat just more than 5,000 for a game, the DECC seemed like the grandest stage of all for a Duluth kid. Nothing beat getting home from school on a Friday afternoon knowing that you’d be going to a UMD game the next two nights. My parents owned two season tickets since before I was born, but would pretend I was a baby at least until I was four-years-old so they didn’t have to buy a ticket.
UMD games served as a place where youth hockey players congregated with their teammates in their vinyl team jackets with patches from local tournaments sewn on. It was where adolescents, who couldn’t yet drive, would meet up with the opposite sex and flirt down in the dark standing room area behind the East end goal. It was a place that didn’t serve alcohol, but had a steady stream of adults hit the skywalk at intermission to grab a cold one at the nearby curling club.
And even though the concourses were tight, it didn’t matter because the walls were made of glass and showcased the beautiful image of the lit up Aerial Lift Bridge just a slap shot away.
It’s a sad and exciting day for Duluth, which will open up Amsoil Arena later this month. On behalf of all the people who had the pleasure of experiencing a game at the DECC, thanks old-timer.
For a great feature on the last series at the DECC, check out this story by Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune.