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Fryberger Arena celebrates 50 seasons

Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 6:45 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - For fifty seasons, one Northland building has been gifting the community with tradition, stories, and memories.

“He went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he played hockey, and all they had was a pond there. So we’ve come a long way,” said Fryberger.

One man with one big dream for one little city on a hill.

“My dad said I’ve got some money, I’ve got a lot of ambition, I’ve got a lot of interest in the youth hockey, and so he came back to Duluth and started the youth hockey program,” said Fryberger.

Robert M. Fryberger Senior, the catalyst behind building an indoor rink and bringing value to a community for the last 50 years. Many pin Duluth as America’s outdoor hockey capital, but nestled in the Woodland neighborhood, lies an indoor landmark.

“It’s kind of the place we learned to skate as kids. Friday and Saturday nights, it was public skating up there every night in the fall, and that’s kind of what we did in junior high, and high school was meet at Fryberger at night,” said Pitoscia.

In 1972 the city of Duluth dedicated the arena to Fryberger. Five years after the rink received its name ‘Fryberger Arena,’ its namesake died in a car crash. While a life lost, a legacy lived on.

“You get a rink like Fryberger, and you think about all of the different people that played there and the number of players that went on to play professional hockey from Duluth and some of the legends,” said Reyelts.

“There’s people that come back to town and will come up here and come in and tell me how they played here when they were a kid,” said Atol.

“Always when you bring up Fryberger arena, bring it back with sort of fond memories, and I think that’s unique in the fact that you know when you look at the building, it’s nondescript. It sits up by itself in a residential area, but it’s got sort of what’s the word; charm,” said Nygaard.

It is a rink as charming on the outside as it is on the inside, rooted in tradition and known for its freezing temperatures.

“It gives you that experience of real hockey; I mean outdoor hockey without going outdoors. In fact, that’s the joke we’ve always had. Fryberger arena’s never warmer than it is outside. I’ve heard this story and it’s been repeated many times about it being so cold that somebody saw a puck break,” said Nygaard.

“Anybody’s who’s been in Fryberger knows that it’s kind of a win tunnel up there, and it’s sitting on top of the hill, but we could actually feel the breeze as it was coming through the building onto the bench. International falls being the coldest spot in Minnesota, right, but they’ll tell you that Fryberger arena is the coldest spot in Duluth on any given day in the winter,” said Reyelts.

“It isn’t always about the glitz and the glam, and it toughens you up. You have to be ready to like grind it out and it’s going to be cold it is what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm outside; it’s ways going to be cold in here,” said Davidson.

“I never imagined I would have a rink like this,” said Fryberger.

Spoken from Robert’s son, Jerry Fryberger, “oh, he would say this is just what I hoped for, but never dreamed it could be. It was beyond our fondest dreams and that’s what’s happened here.”

A vision brought to life, fit for a Minnesota-made reputation.

“It’s called ‘Freezeberger,’ and I can see why now, I’ve got long underwear on, I’ve got a puff jacket on, I’ve got lined pants on, and I am still cold,” said Fryberger.

“A place like this has been the generational glue for several over the past 50 years. While they may call it ‘Freezberger Arena,’ the warmth that is brought through those doors and on this rink is what keeps this place heated and going,” said Bass.

“The parents have pitched in, all of the people who coached, and all of the people who have been driving their kids all over kingdom come to find ice rinks, but now you can come to Fryberger where you’ve got a nice ice facility. The ice is absolutely terrific,” said Fryberger.

When asked what makes the ice better than the rest, Jerry says the people. The ones who have played, coached, and have held an influential role in the state of hockey.

“It’s all the people who work at it, you know, and they see the wonderful opportunities, and so they want to be a part of it and so they flood the rinks,” said Jerry.

A rink like this takes a village to maintain. But, Fryberger’s arena manager Gordy Adol says it’s the community that’s kept him coming back for the last 25 years.

“I’ll say it every day, if it gets tough or gets to be a long day, I’ll just say keep telling yourself it’s fun, and that’s what I tell my staff, and it is. We are lucky to have this place; it’s a community,” said Atol.

A community rich in love for the game that has been flooding the rinks in the 2-1-8 for generations.

“There was a head coach, and his son was playing, and then his grandpa was in the stands, and that is the epitome of this arena. That’s right, from one generation after another,” said Fryberger.

While Jerry hung up his skates years ago, hockey is still the bloodline of the Fryberger family and has been for the last 150 years. The Frybergers continue to find themselves all bundled up in the stands in awe of what the game has grown into today.

“Tt’s time for me to sit back and watch the kids develop, and the teams today are so much better, absolutely just wonderfully better than when I played. They’re out there skating, and before you know it, they’re playing college hockey at the division one level, and it absolutely warms my heart to see those kids out there, and it’s just plain fun, Alexis,” said Fryberger.

Now the community and this family look forward to the future of more memories in Fryberger.

“I’m hoping when anybody comes by 50 years from now and drives up woodland, and they can see that building and say, ‘yeah I’ve played there,’ and I bet if I walked in, it would still be as cold as it was back whatever years ago,” said Nygaard.

Ringing in the season of joy and celebrating the rink that’s given many delight on the ice for half of a century.

“50 years. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it,” said Fryberger.

“And cheers to 50 more,” said Bass!

Today the rink is open five months out of the year, October through March, hosting practices and tournaments seven days out of the week.

Fryberger arena hopes to have another celebration 50 years from now. However, they say for that to happen, they will need continued support from the city and the community.

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