Sub-Associations: Denfeld, Duluth East, Duluth Icebreakers, Congdon Park, Duluth Heights, Glen Avon, Gary-Morgan Park, Piedmont, Portman, Woodland
2015-16 Registration Numbers: 740
President: Brett Klosowski
Why They’re Awesome
As with any community association, it starts with the people.
“The key to our success is our volunteers,” DAHA association president Brett Klosowski said. “They do a fantastic job.”
Beyond the people, DAHA also keeps an old-school flair to the game, hosting league games outdoors. Skating outside, sometimes in the snow, takes the game back to its roots. The natural outdoor feel earned Duluth the honor of being the 2016 Hockey Day Minnesota host city on February 6.
A Unique Set-up
DAHA is essentially a small-scale version of Minnesota Hockey. The association oversees 10 community sub-associations—Denfeld, Duluth East, Duluth Icebreakers, Congdon Park, Duluth Heights, Glen Avon, Gary-Morgan Park, Piedmont, Portman and Woodland.
“That is what makes us the most unique youth sports organization, probably in the country,” Klosowski said. “We have 10 sub-associations that all have their own boards, their own officers, their own individual missions.
“Overall, that is what challenges us, but it’s also what makes us strong.”
Klosowski noted that each sub-association does things a little differently, but as a result there’s more brainpower, and more ideas on the table to achieve different goals, from fundraising to running a rink and, ultimately, growing the game.
“Even though they’re trying to do their own thing for their association, when it comes time to get together and talk about things, everybody is very, very open and willing to share information to try and help each other become better,” Klosowski said.
A Way of Life
With 10 community associations, a handful of high school teams and college hockey—including the Division I University of Minnesota-Duluth—hockey is simply a way of life in Duluth.
While UMD provides attention and focus to the sport in Duluth on a larger scale, when the Bulldogs have success, there’s a glow about it that everyone in the DAHA, and the city of Duluth feeds off of.
DAHA recently conducted a study measuring the association’s economic impact during the season in Duluth. The results showed it brought $8 million a year—a finding that doesn’t include the colleges or high school hockey.
“That’s a really, really big impact,” Klosowski said. “There’s a culture here about the sport. [It’s] what this community revolves around in the wintertime.”
A Focus on Growth
With a little less than 750 kids in the association this year, DAHA isn’t satisfied with its numbers. Within the next five years, the association hopes to grow to 1,000 skaters. According to Klosowski, there are two major obstacles they face: the perception of the cost and the time commitment.
DAHA does participate in Try Hockey for Free days and equipment drives to bring down the cost of playing, but one of their bigger initiatives is using their seven outdoor rinks to host rookie, mini-mite skating sessions, free of charge. The program is an effort to expose the kids to the sport in a fun environment with few barriers to entry. It’s one hour, one night a week at no cost. DAHA provides the equipment, if needed, and kids can learn the game outdoors.
With this initiative, DAHA is attempting to break both the perception about the cost to play and the time-commitment. To enjoy the game and to be a good player doesn’t require a year-round commitment, much less a significant time commitment in season.
Beyond making it easier to learn the game, DAHA is also making an effort to figure out why kids leave hockey. When a player decides to leave the association at any level, DAHA reaches out to the parents for feedback. Already, DAHA has put that feedback to use, going away from the Squirt A and Squirt B model and eliminat