Faces of Duluth tells the stories of the people behind Duluth’s iconic attractions, hidden gems and everything in between. Traveling to Duluth? Learn the locals’ tips and tricks for seeing all the city has to offer.
As any local will share, hockey is a big part of life in Duluth. Whether it’s backyard rinks, frozen ponds, rinks in Duluth’s many city parks, or the well-Zambonied ice at AMSOIL Arena in the DECC, Duluthians know their way around a puck. If you’re traveling to Duluth to watch a game or tournament, know that there’s plenty to do both on the ice and outside the arena to make the most of your time in Duluth. With so much to do, you may even want to add a day or two to your trip to see it all!
To help highlight what makes a trip to AMSOIL Arena so memorable and all that there is to do in Duluth, we tapped the University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey team coaches to share their insider tips and favorite attractions. One is a born-and-raised Duluthian, and the other had never been to Minnesota before her role at UMD – but both have their local favorites to share. Meet Head Coach Maura Crowell and Associate Head Coach Laura Bellamy.
What’s your Duluth story?
Coach Crowell: I was fortunate enough to get hired as the head coach seven seasons ago, coming from coaching at Harvard. It was my first time in Minnesota. Once I got up here and drove over the hill and saw Lake Superior, I was enamored and blown away. I knew it was going to be a great fit for me and my family. I love outdoor activities. I like being around the water. When you go around the Lakewalk and see all the people walking, rollerblading, biking — it’s a really vibrant community. And with the restaurants, breweries, hotels and all of the people that come here, this is a vacation city. To be able to live here permanently is a pretty special opportunity.
Coach Bellamy: I grew up in Duluth in the Piedmont neighborhood and played a ton of hockey on outdoor rinks. I loved coming to the UMD hockey games. I ended up going to Harvard and playing there for four years, from 2009 to 2013, and then I coached there for two years. When Coach Crowell took the head coaching job here, I came with, and I’ve been back in Duluth coaching since 2015. I’ve always loved it here but coming back after being gone between 2009 and 2015 – a lot has changed. There are so many more restaurants, breweries and things you can do out by the lake that you couldn’t do when I was growing up.
What do you love about Duluth?
Coach Bellamy: I love the city feel but knowing that I’m also right on Lake Superior. I love to paddle board, go for walks along the lake, hike around the lake, really anything with the lake. As long as I can see the lake, I feel like I’m doing okay. A lot of people ask, what’s Duluth like in the winter? So many of us who live here and love it here, we say, “visit in the winter.” Even in the cold, there’s so much to do, and it’s just a beautiful place to be.
Coach Crowell: I love Duluth because I love Lake Superior. The activity that surrounds the lake is really special and unique, as well as the people that make up Duluth. Most of them have been here for a long time and have great stories. I would definitely encourage visitors to talk to and interact with the community members here – they’re fascinating!
Favorite things to do around town?
Coach Crowell: I love hiking. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails, whether it’s up at Hawks Ridge or Hartley Nature Center. There are amazing restaurants and breweries around town – that scene has really taken off and you won’t be disappointed in the variety of options. Duluth is also a fantastic spot for brunch with great locations near UMD. We have such great support from the local businesses and those looking for food won’t have trouble finding fantastic meals.
What makes hockey in Duluth so special?
Coach Crowell: I’ve been coaching for over 20 years, and I would say Duluth is the best hockey town in America. The UMD women’s hockey program is one of the most successful hockey programs in the country, having won five national championships. Players come from all over the world to play for the Bulldogs. We had 12 former and current Bulldogs in women’s hockey at the Beijing Olympics. We play in the WCHA conference, which I think is the best conference in the country. We play some of the best teams night in and night out at AMSOIL arena, one of the best facilities, if not the best facility, in the country. Whether it’s women’s or men’s hockey, the people here love the Bulldogs. They attend our games with passion. They know their hockey, so you can have some good conversations with members of the community.
Our program will be hosting the women’s NCAA Frozen Four tournament in Spring 2023, and we certainly hope to be playing it. It’ll be a fantastic tournament with some of the best teams in the country – so mark your calendars.
Best advice for travelers coming to see a game?
Coach Bellamy: First of all, the product on the ice is unbelievable. Second, we have one of the best arenas in college hockey, if not the best. It was built in 2010, so it’s still a really new arena and the upkeep is unbelievable. Pretty much anywhere you sit in this arena, you have a good vantage point of the rink. And, lastly, if you’re coming to a game, the arena is right on Lake Superior and by Canal Park. You can go to a brewery or restaurant or our concessions to have dinner before the game, go to the game, get a beer after – it can be a complete experience.
Coach Crowell: If you have kids with you, try to sit near our bench because there’s generally good opportunity for interaction with the players. We come out of the tunnel from the locker room, and most times we have kids leaning over giving high fives, and, depending on the person, maybe they’ll get a puck or a stick. It is really unique in that they get to interact with our players like that. Plus, the production the UMD athletic department puts on in coordination with the DECC is top notch. We do a really good job of making the fan experience one of the best in the country.
If you’re coming to a hockey game, you should definitely tack on another day or two to your trip. There’s a lot of things to do in the neighborhoods throughout Duluth so make sure you spend some extra time here outside of the rink.