Hockey, basketball players required to wear masks as season begins

Winter sports practice in Pine County and across Minnesota may resume beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, and competition could start on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) reported that the Minnesota Department of Health has released a COVID-19 sports guide for youth and adults. In a press release, the MSHSL described it as a flexible model meant to support the safest possible return to sports and activities.  

“These experiences are so important to students and they have been anxiously waiting to get these winter seasons started,” MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens said. “By implementing these safety protocols recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and required by the Minnesota Department of Health, we have the best chance to provide safe seasons with reduced interruptions and also plan for full postseason experiences.”   

The Minnesota Department of Health will require mask usage by all participants during practices and competitions with a few exceptions. Exceptions are made for those sports where wearing a mask may cause additional safety concerns and include gymnastics, cheerleading, wrestling, swimming and diving.  

Martens said the league will continue to work with the MDH and the Minnesota Department of Education to develop plans for student-athletes to return safely to in-person participation.   

“We are excited for the opportunity to start both practices and contests in this winter season,” Martens said. “The commitment to safety by our more than 500 member schools is critical to not only start our seasons, but to finish them as well.”

Martens said that MSHSL staff are reviewing the newest information and existing guidance documents and will provide updated sport-specific guidance. Included in that guidance will most likely be an updated spectator policy as the current guidance only states spectator capacity will be determined based on the size of the venue.

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