A youth hockey association and Ramsey County are examining their weapons policies after a father with a rifle hanging on his shoulder walked his young son into a Vadnais Heights ice arena.
Law enforcement officers were called to the TCO Sports Garden on Sept. 26 in response to a weapons complaint, and a report about the incident says the matter was referred to the city attorney.
The Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, which provides police service for Vadnais Heights, declined to provide additional details. It's unclear why the man brought the firearm to the ice arena.
"Ramsey County is taking this incident very seriously. This situation caused significant alarm among users of the arena facility in Vadnais Heights — including young children and their parents — and county employees," according to a statement from Ramsey County. "We have been informed that the incident is currently being reviewed by the Vadnais Heights City Attorney's Office for consideration of possible violations of applicable laws related to carrying a firearm without a permit."
County leaders and attorneys from the Ramsey County Attorney's Office will meet this week to consider ways to prevent similar incidents from occurring in all Ramsey County facilities in accordance with existing state and local laws.
A photo of the armed father and his elementary school-age son, dressed in pads and carrying his hockey stick, has widely circulated among parents in the White Bear Lake Hockey Association.
"A bunch of parents are obviously very concerned," said one parent with connections to the hockey association who asked not to be named for fear of retribution against their children.
Chad Marquardt, president of the White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association, declined to comment, saying it's an open investigation.
In a letter to parents obtained by the Star Tribune, the association said it is working with Ramsey County to ensure the safety of participants. The association initially said it would ask for signs to be posted making it clear weapons are not allowed at the arena, but it noted in a subsequent letter that Minnesota statute prohibits such signs at Ramsey County facilities.
"Additionally, our board is updating association policies to reflect a stance on weapons. The association has ZERO tolerance for weapons of any kind on the premise of any hockey event," the letter said. "Any person who carries a weapon on the premises of a hockey event will be banned from ALL rinks, no exceptions. Our handbook will soon reflect this updated policy."
Glen Andresen, executive director of Minnesota Hockey, the governing body of youth and amateur hockey in Minnesota, said he was made aware of the incident.
"In my time as executive director, this is the first time that an issue like this has arisen in Minnesota Hockey," Andresen said.
He said the organization's governing board will examine a policy that addresses weapons at games and practices.
"I can understand why any parent at the arena at that time or who is a member of the association would be upset with that situation," he said.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037