Youth sports set to resume Jan. 4

MSHSL allows practice after Walz edict, games date still uncertain

by Nick Wognum
It was a good news/bad news week for high school athletes in Ely and across the state.
While Gov. Tim Walz extended what began as a four-week pause that halted all high school and youth sports in Minnesota, an announcement on Wednesday offered some light at the end of a long tunnel.
In an executive order signed the same day, Walz cleared the way for sports practices to begin Jan. 4.
Within minutes of the announcement, the Minnesota State High School League made news of its own - indicating that practices for all winter high school sports would begin on that date.
Much remains unsettled, including a firm date that games and meets will begin, but the developments breathe new life into sports seasons that have been dormant for several weeks.
Practices for winter sports were slated to begin in mid-to-late November, depending on the activity, but Walz put those on ice amid rising COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.
The COVID spike has ebbed and trended downward substantially, with active cases as of Wednesday down more than 50 percent since a Nov. 20 peak.
That played a role in the decision to reinstate sports.
“We need to get kids playing again,” Walz said during a Wednesday afternoon address.
Locally, details had not yet been finalized as of deadline related to practice plans for several Ely teams - boys and girls basketball, boys and girls Nordic skiing and boys hockey. Ely also participates in a girls hockey cooperative with Eveleth-Gilbert.
Schedules have already been disrupted dramatically by the pandemic, with some scheduled December contests moved into early-March.
Minnesota high school teams were hoping to start practice Dec. 21 and move into games two weeks later, but the further delay will force several early-January events to be postponed and rescheduled.
The MSHSL has indicated it plans to hold both section and state tournaments for winter sports, after limiting fall activities to section competitions only.
Like the fall activities, the winter sports will operate with a modified calendar and shortened season, along with COVID protocols for each activity.
In making the case for a resumption in play, MSHSL officials say that high school athletics offer a safe alternative for competition in a controlled environment.
In addition to high school sports, youth sports were also cleared for practice beginning Jan. 4, although no dates have been set for the resumption of games and competition in those sports.