If you play outdoor hockey in Duluth, chances are you’ve skated with or against Phil Beaulieu. When he’s not in school or scoring for the Duluth East Greyhounds, the senior is dangling on the outdoor rinks in his hometown.
His lifelong pond-hockey diet has not only transformed him into a star, but it’s cultivated a deeper love and passion for the game.
“That’s when you have the most fun. That’s when you really develop your skills,” says Beaulieu, who is committed to play college hockey at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without outdoor hockey.
Phil’s father, Dorian Beaulieu, got him started in hockey when he was just 2 years old. He even built and maintained a rink in their backyard from the time Phil was in Mites until Peewees, which are also considered the Golden Ages of skill development.
“That played a huge part in my development,” says Beaulieu. “It was real fun when I had all my cousins still living in town. We’d play 2-on-2 or little mini-tournaments until midnight when our neighbor would come out and yell at us to keep it down.”
Beaulieu still logs hours upon hours of outdoor ice. You can find him at Woodland, where he spent a lot of time playing as a youngster. He often skates at the Glen Avon outdoor rink that was recently showcased in a KARE 11 Twin Cities feature.
This fall, Beaulieu spent time playing with the United States Hockey League’s Fargo Force. Even though he was putting together an impressive campaign in junior hockey, he chose to return to Duluth East for his senior season.
And it’s safe to say he’s enjoying it.
Beaulieu, mostly a defenseman throughout his high school career, has played at forward quite a bit this season. The position changes haven’t held him back one bit. Through 22 games, he tallied 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points to lead the Hounds. He was also named one of the 10 finalists for the Mr. Hockey award.
The coaches at Nebraska-Omaha like his positional versatility. So does Beaulieu.
“It’s nice because you get to appreciate each position,” he says. “You get to realize the differences with each position and I think that helps you out as a player overall. It helps you figure out the game.”
Beaulieu knows life after high school will be different. When it comes to outdoor hockey, nobody does it like Minnesota.
“It is very unique. As I go to other places like Fargo and Omaha, I realize that I won’t be able to just go skate anywhere like I can here,” says Beaulieu. “I think we take it for granted. I’m trying to take advantage of it now as much as I can.”
Beaulieu is a strong supporter of unstructured hockey. He believes more kids should be getting outside.
“I think kids need to get away from coaches and go out and have fun with their friends on the ice,” he says. “Just get a big pick-up game going and work on your skills. It’s not where you develop team systems. You get to work a lot on your hands and just being a better player. Nothing will help you more than five hours out on the outdoor rink.”
So keep an eye out for Beaulieu before he leaves town to continue his hockey career. He’ll be looking for you.
“We want to see more kids out there.”