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MN parents and high school athletes adapt to winter sports changes as games begin

High school hockey and other winter sports are now allowed to compete again under new COVID-19 guidelines.

EDINA, Minn. — To be back on the ice for the first time in almost a year, is a big deal for many high school hockey athletes and their parents. 

"It's huge especially in Edina," said Kevin Cole whose son plays for Edina's JV hockey team. 

"This is the first year our son is playing for high school so we're pretty excited about it," said Renee McGarvey, whose son plays for St. Louis Park. 

New guidance from the state health department is allowing winter sports to resume with extra precautions in place. Players must keep six feet apart when not actively playing, the numbers of spectators are limited, no concessions, and players must wear masks at all times, which is the most controversial of the rules.

"Hockey's got to be one of the toughest to perform with a mask on. By the time we're at the end of our practice they're just soaked through with sweat and spit," said Patrick Christopherson, Bloomington girls hockey coach. 

Leaders with "Let Them Play Minnesota" have actually filed a lawsuit against Governor Walz and MDH because of the guidelines, citing safety concerns and health issues.

"We hope to get in front of the court and ask the judge for help to help kids and stop some of this back and forth in rule changes every other week so that kids can just safely play," said Sam Diehl, an attorney representing the Let Them Play MN organization. 

In a statement from the Minnesota State High School League, they say they stand by the health department's guidance, while hoping for a safe season with reduced interruptions.

"There's too many other consequences emotionally if they can't get out and play," said Cole. 

However, politics aside, it's the benefits that come with seeing the athletes back on the ice, which outweigh the limitations that come with a rather unconventional start to the season.

"They're home all day long, they're distance learning so they're cooped up in the house and they absolutely need to get out and exercise and have fun with their friends," said Cole. 

"Comradery and friendships that you develop with a team that maybe you don't get in school in particularly this year," said McGarvey. 

Leaders with the Minnesota State High School League say they'll continue to work closely with MDH and update their guidelines accordingly through the duration of the winter sports season, in order to keep the games going while also keeping players, and their coaches safe.