How will Mayo Boys Hockey deal with COVID-19?

Mayo Boys Hockey is happening… kind of. Will there be a season? The Minnesota High School Sports Association members are still discussing that matter. The spike in the pandemic has forced another shutdown, and everyone involved in the sport wants to keep themselves and those around them safe. Everyone has to be patient and flexible in this changing situation.

The hockey season actually started back in August with captains practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. For those who are unaware, in this type of practice the coach is not yet allowed to be on the ice nor in the building. According to USA hockey rules, no coach is allowed to be in contact with players until the session officially starts. The team captain Cooper Henderson had been running the practices until the Governor’s latest round of closures.

Before then, the Mayo Boys hockey team had been taking extreme measures to help fight against the virus. In order to enter the rink, each player had to wear a mask; a lot of players switched to bubbles instead of cages for their hockey helmets. A bubble is a clear piece of plastic to protect your face, but it also acts as a COVID-19 facemask. Most players are worried about when they get hit. Upon impact, plenty of particles fly “out of the mouth and hit another player,” Cooper Henderson said. The facemasks are a good protective measure in those circumstances.

It’s not just on the ice that the team is being careful. In the locker rooms, there are red X’s on the bench where players sit, each one six feet apart to maintain a safe distance to not spread possible germs. On top of that, the brand CCM has recently come out with a product that helps protect players from spreading germs. It’s a mask that straps onto the helmet’s cage, bubble, or visor, but the reviews are not the best. Ryan Brown explained that, “it’s so hot and uncomfortable, but it does the job. I hate using it, but it’s better than getting COVID.” 

As the actual season drew near, before the recent shutdown, a temporary head coach was brought on, but not one from Mayo. The head coach is Alec Brandrup, who played division one hockey at Norwich University and went one to play in the SPHL (southern professional Hockey league) for the Huntsville Havoc. He is also a trainer at Olmsted Medical Center where he works with hockey players from the southern part of Minnesota.

During the month of November, practice would be every day except for the weekends. Monday through Thursday, Coach Brandrup focused on skills and development. Then on  Friday’s there would be a scrimmage between two teams decided by the coach. The scrimmages were meant to simulate a game, with real referees, scorekeepers, and a high pace. On the practice days that followed, the team would work on things that were noticed in the game that needed improvement. 

Every week the team did this to improve the images every week, and it worked very well. Finally, the last scrimmage was on Friday the 13th. The team had raised their level of play considerably: ”This was the best game by far it looked like a real high school game out there,” Coach Brandrup said. Momentum was definitely building for the team.

Unfortunately, as the spike in corona virus cases kept getting worse, all school athletics were shut down as of November 18th. The Graham Arena shut down on November 16th. As of right now there will be no hockey season, but there are talks of a potential session in January if the case numbers go down. We can only hope and continue to train, even if it is in isolation.