The Minnesota State High School League's Board of Directors voted unanimously (17-0) for a 2020-21 hockey season that has a 30% reduction in games being played during the regular season.
The reactions of the presidents of both the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association (boys, Jon Ammerman) and Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Coaches Association (Claire Goldsmith) included being glad that there will be a season, disappointment that the decision was short of their proposals for the season and concern over whether there will be state tournaments played.
Boys and girls hockey teams will be allowed to play a maximum of 18 games during the regular season and the start of the season has been moved for both because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We had spent a lot of time with various ad hoc committees for solutions to present to the resume to play committee and, unfortunately, this (plan) was not really one of them," Goldsmith said. "We got the best of the two (projected calendar drafts by the MSHSL), but it's all relative.
"I think people are disappointed given what we've done with (summer training programs) and with fall leagues — there haven't been a lot of outbreaks and things have been running really smoothly," said Goldsmith, the girls co-head coach at Mound-Westonka High School. "I'm also the assistant director for the fall prep league and we have not had really any issues. We've enforced masks at the rinks, asked coaches to wear them on the bench, all spectators have to wear them and we've also asked the girls in the locker room during resurface to keep them on.
"We had hoped that the high school league would look at what we've done and not had any issues as a reason to keep the (regular season) as intact as we could have."
The boys hockey practices will start on Nov. 23 and the girls hockey practices will start on Nov. 30. Last season (2019-20), the girls hockey season had its first games on Nov. 7 and the boys on Nov. 21, both playing a maximum of 25 regular season games.
Boys and girls hockey teams will not be allowed to play in tournaments during the regular season and can play a maximum of two games in a week. The boys and girls hockey regular seasons will each last 16 weeks. The last two weeks of the season will allow a third game for reschedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic or weather.
"Our goals were (at least) 20 games, a regular start date and a state tournament," said Ammerman, who is also the Moorhead High School boys head coach. "The state tournament portion still hasn't been decided upon. Ultimately, the other two (goals) — it's close to what our goal was, but not quite what our idea of a successful season would be.
"I think our reaction has to be delayed at this point as to whether it's a good thing for high school hockey or not. The way we're going to look at it is if there's a state tournament, today was a good day because we not only have a season, but a postseason. We know that's the one thing that sets us apart here in Minnesota is our state tournament.
"We're fully aware that a state tournament is going to look different this year. But our kids and our communities stay involved and are really engaged in high school hockey because of that state tournament."
Coaches associations proposals
In recent weeks, the MSCHA and MGHCA worked together and sent the MSHSL two proposals for the 2020-21 season.
"I think we put a lot of time and what felt like a lot of blood, sweat and tears, to try to get to the point at which we felt like we were not just wanting to play, but taking the safety of the players into consideration wholeheartedly," Goldsmith said. "We never made it about the parents and spectators being our priority. (In our proposals), we were careful with what the coaches were required to do.
"We haven't had any issues with either summer or fall stuff, so I think we did our due diligence on that front. It feels like it was .... maybe recycled, passed along to somebody else."
One of the associations' proposed plans, which was for mid-level COVID-19 numbers, would have allowed teams to have one local scrimmage and 21 regular season games. All of the games would have been played against regional opponents and would have started on Nov. 20, but limited to one game per week until Dec. 31. There would have been a mandatory holiday break (Dec. 20-30) from competition. After Dec. 31, teams could play two games per week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays against the same opponent.
The associations' proposal for low-level COVID-19 numbers would have allowed for a maximum of 24 regular season games and teams would have been allowed to play teams from anywhere in the state. No travel restrictions were announced for teams by the MSHSL.
"Going into (Thursday's MSHSL board meeting), we were pretty reassured that there was going to be a season," Ammerman said. "They held firm on their 30 percent reduction in a season and that's been across the board for fall and winter activities. Outside of that, there's still a lot of details that have to be sorted out.
"I'm really proud of our association for coming up with some very detailed plans in terms of mitigation and safety measures. That wasn't even discussed at the state level. There's a lot of details that have to be worked out. There's a mixed reaction from our membership and a lot of work to be done. Scheduling has to take place and, a month before the season starts, to rearrange based on some conferences playing conference only (games) and others won't. So we're going to have to mix and match and see what that looks like."
Winter sports start dates, competitions
Here are the start dates, number of weeks and maximum number of regular season contests for the winter sports that have been approved by the board (note that no regular season tournaments are being allowed and the maximum number of contests per week for all sports is two):
* Dance team: Nov. 9, 15 weeks, 11 contests
* Adapted floor hockey: Nov. 16, 16 weeks, 18 contests
* Boys swimming and diving: Nov. 30, 13 weeks, 11 contests
* Boys hockey: Nov. 23, 16 weeks, 18 contests
* Girls hockey: Nov. 30, 16 weeks, 18 contests
* Gymnastics: Nov. 30, 14 weeks, 11 contests
* Boys basketball: Nov. 23, 17 weeks, 18 contests
* Girls basketball: Nov. 30, 17 weeks, 18 contests
* Nordic and alpine skiing: Nov. 30, 14 weeks, 11 contests
* Wrestling: Nov. 30, 14 weeks, 16 contests