Date set for games to begin
High school athletes now have a date to look forward to.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Health cleared the way for youth sporting events to resume Jan. 14 and the Minnesota State High School League followed suit.
The move comes in advance of a Jan. 4 start date for youth and high school sports practices, and follows a several-week “pause” ordered in mid-November by Gov. Tim Walz.
It also includes some new restrictions, among them a requirement that all athletes indoors wear masks or face coverings, even when competing.
That directive generated significant pushback earlier this week but, at least for now, it stands as practices get set to begin.
Still unclear is whether or not spectators will be allowed at indoor events, which begin in Ely Jan. 14 with a girls basketball game between the Timberwolves and Two Harbors and a boys basketball game with Mt. Iron-Buhl the following evening.
The Department of Health allowed spectators for fall volleyball games, up to two per participant, but guidance for winter events was not certain as of deadline.
In Ely, plans are in place for several teams - boys and girls basketball, boys and girls Nordic skiing and boys hockey - to start practice. The high school dance team will also be able to begin Jan. 4, and Ely also participates in a girls hockey cooperative with Eveleth-Gilbert.
Game schedules are starting to take shape, with numerous early-season events postponed and regular seasons abbreviated, with all teams playing less than a full slate of games.
The late start has also resulted in extensions to the back end of the calendar, with seasons going into March.
The MSHSL has indicated it plans to hold both section and state tournaments for winter sports, after limiting fall activities to section competitions only.
Ely’s teams are set to move right into action after about a week-and-a-half of practice.
The girls basketball team, under new head coach Max Gantt, hosts Two Harbors to open the campaign and visits Bigfork Jan. 19.
In boys basketball, the Wolves return several key players from a team that reached the final four in Section 7A and has a tough two-game set to open the season, on the home court.
After a playoff rematch with Mt. Iron-Buhl to open the season, Tom McDonald’s Wolves host Bigfork on Saturday, Jan. 16.
The hockey team will be one of the youngest in school history and will play a mix of varsity and junior varsity games this winter.
The first game on the hockey schedule is now set for Thursday, Jan. 21, a 6 p.m. junior varsity tilt with Greenway at the Ely Arena.
Sydney Richards, an Ely senior, is part of the Eveleth-Gilbert Area girls hockey team and efforts are underway to play a home game in Ely this season.
Nordic skiing, held outdoors, doesn’t face as many COVID-related restrictions as indoor activities but that season has been delayed by the pandemic as well.
All-state senior Jasper Johnston and girls state qualifier Zoe Devine are two members of a deep Nordic Wolves squad that begin workouts at Hidden Valley Monday under the direction of longtime coach Paula Anderson.
The ski meet schedule had not yet been finalized as of deadline.