Still Banned in the State of Hockey, Minnesota Youth Team Laces up in Fargo 

In his latest executive order, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz continued what amounts to an effective ban on full participation in most youth sports this summer. Parsing what’s permitted and not in the Minnesota Department of Health’s latest guidelines practically requires an attorney to sort out.

Here’s a partial look at the lineup of do’s and don’ts tallied by Forum Communications.

The health department has categorized sporting activities in low, medium and high-risk categories, depending upon the closeness of play, the duration of closeness and the use of shared equipment like balls.

The result is a sometimes odd grouping in which partner figure skating is considered as risky as wrestling, football and hockey, with baseball and soccer considered medium risk, and running and cycling considered low-risk.

But not everyone appears to be playing the governor’s game. Rumors abound of youth baseball teams from Minnesota participating in tournaments just across the border in neighboring states. Town baseball teams openly defied Walz’s continuing clampdown on their summer passion throughout Greater Minnesota last weekend. And at least one Twin Cities youth hockey team decided it was worth the drive all the way to Fargo just to lace up their skates and practice again.

“The smiles on their faces are awesome,” said Head Coach David Spehar.

The Minnesota Blades are a 13-U hockey team based out of Minneapolis and they’re looking across the upper Midwest for a rink to have their summer practices.

Rather than figure out what is and isn’t allowed in the state of hockey these days, the Minnesota Blades took off for North Dakota, where they were more than welcome to scrimmage at full strength.

With limited rinks open across Minnesota and no contact sports permitted, that’s when Spehar decided why not bring the team to Fargo.

“We just looked at it as instead of trying to figure out what’s going on down there, let’s come up here, it’s a beautiful area, it’s a beautiful town where we know we can skate so it’s worked out really well,” said Spehar.

“A couple weekends ago we came up here and just to have fun since we haven’t skated much during the break,” said eighth grader Danny Klaers.

The Minnesota Department of Health frowns on youth sports teams competing in other states that do not enforce similar restrictions. The issue is addressed in a stern frequently asked question on its website.

Question: What are the consequences for teams or people who travel out of state? Neighboring states are offering competition for  our  athletes, and our our athletes are seriously looking at these opportunities.

Response: Consistent with federal guidance, the Governor’s Executive Orders encourage Minnesotans to stay close to home and strongly discourage them from engaging in unnecessary travel. You should consider the risks of travel. Traveling to other states and failing to follow the guidance  could  put  your athletes and your families at risk for COVID-19, and you also risk spreading COVID-19 to others.

Besides sharpening up their skills, the players also got to work off nervous energy and frustration from being cooped up since mid-March due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

The Blades are hopeful that they can start taking road trips for games and not just practices at the end of July, but for now that normalcy resides in Fargo.

“It’s pretty great of him to do this for us because not many of us have skated like many times so it’s just a good time to come up and have fun,” said Klaers.

It’s not clear when the state of Minnesota will allow youth sports to get back to normal. But more teams and coaches clearly appear to have less confidence in Walz to make the right call.