A frostbite injury suffered by a standout Minnetonka player in one of Hockey Day Minnesota's outdoor games last weekend has prompted concerns about playing in dangerously cold temperatures.
Junior forward Teddy Lagerback, who has verbally commited to Arizona State, suffered the injury when his team played Andover on Saturday morning in Bemidji with the temperature near 20 degrees below zero.
Lagerback missed his team's next game Thursday as the defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Skippers lost for the first time this season, 5-2 against Edina. Lagerback has 12 goals this season, tied for the most on his team.
His mother, Molly Lagerback, said Friday that her son "has been doctoring this week, but focusing all his energy on healing and getting healthy for his teammates." She did not specify the nature of the frostbite injury.
Hockey Day Minnesota is produced by Fox Sports North in conjunction with the Minnesota Wild. The games in Bemidji marked the 13th event, highlighted by televised high school games played outdoors.
Minnetonka and No. 2-ranked Andover began at 9:30 a.m. not far from the shores of Lake Bemidji. National Weather Service data showed an air temperature of 27-below at the game's start and 17-below about an hour later.
The Skippers won the game 5-2. Two other games were played later on the same ice: Minnesota State Mankato played Bemidji State in women's hockey and Greenway played Bemidji in another boys' hockey game.
Andover coach Mark Manney said heaters on the bench did not work in the first period but "I don't know if that had much effect."
Of greater concern, Manney said, was "wondering who was actually calling the shots. The Bemidji guys seemed to go whichever way the Fox guys wanted to go.
"These kids wanted to play outside but their safety has to be paramount," Manney said. "They can't be pawns for a bigger production. My advice is that all parties who have a stake need to have a voice. Any one of them should be able to say, 'It's not happening.' "
Tom Kuesel, chairman of the Bemidji local organizing committee, wrote in a text message, "Our concern at this point is the player's hopefully speedy recovery and that the family's privacy be respected." He declined further comment.
Fox Sports North spokeswoman Becky Ross Mielke said the station supported the views expressed in an e-mail sent three days before the event from Minnesota State High School League associate director Craig Perry to the Minnetonka and Andover activities directors with the subject line "Hockey Day Minnesota Anticipated Weather Conditions.''
"The decision to delay or postpone should be made by the coach and a school administrator acting in the best interests of their students and their program," Perry wrote.
As a guideline, he referred the activities directors to the league's Extreme Cold Weather Index, primarily used for Alpine and Nordic skiing. It recommends canceling or postponing all activities at 20-below air temperature or -40 wind chill.
Perry noted that unlike with skiing, hockey players "will have heated benches and a heated locker room adjacent to the rink. Additionally, because the nature of the game with line changes it is different than skiing. The participants will have access to warming areas throughout the games."
After the game, Minnetonka coach Sean Goldsworthy told Peter Waggoner on Goldy's Podcast on MNHockey.tv, "I don't think we'll ever repeat that or even want to repeat that. But … it was awesome. We had three great days up there. The kids definitely built a memory. It was cold. Minus-29 start that Saturday morning was pretty intimidating, but the kids fought through it."
Next year Hockey Day Minnesota will be hosted by Minneapolis. Scott Rusert, Minneapolis organizing committee chairperson, said "it's too early for specific temperature guidelines, but certainly we will take the necessary precautions to make sure the event is as safe as possible for participants and spectators."