The Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association has prepared two proposals for the Minnesota State High School League that it has started to distribute to its members and schools. The details of the MHCA's plan includes a number of safety measures to keep everyone safe.
The MSHSL plans to address winter sports at its Oct. 1 board meeting.
The hope for the MHCA is that the boys hockey season will be able to start on time, which would be Nov. 9.
"We put in specifics, but we left it vague in certain areas because we don't know what that's going to look like in two months and it's tough to predict," said MHCA president Jon Ammerman, head boys hockey coach at Moorhead High School. "Ultimately, the Department of Health has guidance in that and what it might look like.
"Ultimately, we want the season to look as close to a normal season as possible. We also understand that we might have some exceptions for this year."
Here are some of the highlights from the two proposals, which are based on what the state's COVID-19 numbers look like:
Plan 1 (low COVID-19 numbers)
Plan 1 would allow teams to have one scrimmage and 24 regular season games. Two games per week would be played on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays against the same opponent. Teams would play the same opponent in home-and-home series and teams could play 12 opponents from anywhere in the state.
"We contacted our coaches and the response and the communication has been outstanding, from our coaches," Ammerman said. "We asked them what a successful season would look like.
"We asked them what do they want us to fight for and what's our goal. Almost across the board, the goal was to have 20-plus games, to start on time and to have a state tournament at the end. Then a number of coaches from around the state sent us a bunch of proposals and there was about 5-10 coaches who took the bull by the horns and created some cool ideas. We've taken a bunch of those ideas and put them together."
The home-and-home series idea is similar to what happens with some college hockey series.
"The idea behind it is you would play the same opponent twice with the most distance between opponents," Ammerman said. "It's in that pod frame of thinking. If Moorhead played East Grand Forks, maybe we play East on a Friday and they play here on a Saturday.
"There'd be a number of days between (until our next opponents) and if there was an outbreak or they were asymptomatic students, we'd be able to identify that and contact the other team and there'd be at least five days for the (COVID-19) symptoms to show up before we went and played another opponent. The hope is that we'd only have to quarantine two teams instead of multiple."
Playing one opponent per week would help limit exposure to multiple teams if a player develops symptoms.
Locker room use is limited and based on the Minnesota Department of Health social distancing guidelines.
There would be a limited number of spectators and spectators would be required to wear masks.
The section playoffs would be Feb. 15-27 and the state tournament would be March 2-6.
Plan 2 (mid-level COVID-19 numbers)
Plan 2 would allow teams to have one local scrimmage and 21 regular season games. All of the games would be played against regional opponents and would start on Nov. 20, but limited to one game per week until Dec. 31. There would be a mandatory holiday break (Dec. 20-30) from competition. After Dec. 31, teams can play two games per week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays against the same opponent.
The holiday break allows teams to limit exposure to other teams. Teams are still allowed to practice during the break.
The locker room use would be limited to 15 minutes prior to and after ice time. Masks would be required for players and coaches when not on the bench or on the ice and would be required when traveling as a team.
Players would not be allowed to play in both the junior varsity and varsity games.
EXCLUSIVE ON THERINKLIVE.COM: Jon Ammerman, president of the MCHA and head coach of the Moorhead Spuds, joins our podcast on The Rink Live to discuss these options. Look for that podcast shortly on The Rink Live.
There would be a limit to two spectators per player and spectators would be required to wear a mask.
The section playoffs would be Feb. 22-27 and the state tournament would be March 2-6.
Safety measures under both plans
There are a number of items that are in both proposals by the MHCA.
- When they are not competing, players will wear a mask and will practice the Minnesota Department of Health social distance expectations.
- Coaches, staff and off-ice officials will wear face masks when indoors and teams are limited to two coaches on the bench.
- Coaches and players will be subject to temperature checks and screening upon arrival at the rink.
- At practices, teams would be expected to create consistent pods on the ice with a maximum of 25 people in each pod. Each rink would be allowed two pods on the ice at the same time with no mixing between groups and coaches and staff will wear masks.
- After games, there will be no post game handshakes, no team huddle or national anthem. All of each team's opponents will be from Minnesota or within 50 miles if the opponent is from out of state. Examples of acceptable opponents would be teams from Superior, Wis., Grand Forks or Fargo.
- Players will leave the ice for resurfacing halfway through the game.
Well, so what happens if the MSHSL decides to not sponsor a high school hockey season? There is a plan for a season, but it would require a lot of reorganization. MHCA would work with Minnesota Hockey to create an Under-19 league that would basically mirror what a high school season would like. But a number of details, including how to pay for it, would have to be addressed.
"The state high school league is the best route," Ammerman said. "They provide the framework, schools are who funds it and have the facilities and have the scheduling and transportation networks.
"If it goes the Minnesota Hockey route, a lot of those structures aren't in place anymore. I wouldn't be able to coach the (Moorhead) team because of my relationship to the school. In our case, the school wouldn't fund it .... There would have to be a brand new schedule. What would the state do with private schools?
"There's all kinds of things that would have to be figured out. We definitely have a framework of what that would look like and the state high school league has been privy to that ... As hockey people know, there are places for kids to play. We think high school hockey is the best place for them to stay and play. But we also know that if there's an altered season, it might be damaging down the line and what (high school) hockey might look like moving forward."