The winter sports guidance published Wednesday by the Minnesota State High School League reflected the struggles of 2020, while offering some hope for the coming year.
The MSHSL guidelines, like the guidelines the Minnesota Department of Health issued Monday, mandate face coverings be worn throughout practices and games in basketball and hockey. Flexibility exists for other winter sports — including wrestling, where face coverings are not required when student-athlete engages in wrestling contact.
Wearing a face covering during competition is also required in several other states, including Maine, Michigan and North Carolina.
Additional MSHSL rules — in accordance with MDH guidelines — were practice pods being capped at 25 athletes and spectators not allowed at practice.
A decision of great interest, whether spectators will be allowed at games, wasn't announced. Rules on the color of face coverings (black, white, beige or school colors) and the permitted size of a manufacturer's logo are now available, however.
The requirements begin Jan. 4, when many schools will resume practice. First contests can begin Jan. 14. Teams will experience about 30% fewer regular-season contests. Invitationals and tournaments are not permitted for the regular season. Both basketball and hockey can play 18 regular-season games, with a maximum of two games per week. That increases to three per week during the final two regular-season weeks to make up for games lost to COVID-19 or weather-related postponements.
Regarding postseason play, the league has discussed reducing two-week section playoffs to as little as one week. It's also considering a draft "State Tournament Road Map" designed to identify options and models for hosting winter state tournaments given current restrictions on large gatherings.