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Ely hockey squad facing COVID challenges

Keith Vandervort
Posted 2/3/21

ELY – The Ely hockey team’s COVID-abbreviated schedule was dealt another blow last weekend with the cancellation of two games, home and away contests with North Shore.This marks the first …

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Ely hockey squad facing COVID challenges

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ELY – The Ely hockey team’s COVID-abbreviated schedule was dealt another blow last weekend with the cancellation of two games, home and away contests with North Shore.
This marks the first but likely not the only winter sports contests for the Timberwolves to reschedule or drop entirely, as area school districts transition in and out of distance-learning and team quarantine protocols take effect as the coronavirus pandemic continues across the state.
The two-game series with North Shore varsity and junior varsity teams was called off late last week. The Timberwolves’ home game against North Shore’s junior varsity team last Friday was canceled, and the varsity game scheduled for Feb. 2 was rescheduled to Feb. 22, with the location to be determined, according to ISD 696 Athletic Director Tom Coombe.
“The North Shore Hockey team was (COVID) quarantined until Wednesday, Feb. 3,” he said.
Coombe’s efforts to find another team for Ely to play at home last Friday were unsuccessful. “We had ice time and officials lined up so if there was a chance to play another team, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
Health experts have noted that ice hockey has a relatively higher incidence of COVID-19 cases when compared to other youth team sports.
When the Timberwolves did hit the ice, they traveled to Greenway on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and lost 10-0.
The Raiders took a 6-0 lead in the first period of that contest and scored two more goals in each of the remaining periods to give Ely their second loss of the season. Greenway had 74 shots on goal. Ely took six shots to the net, one each by Drew Marlot and Brady Eaton, and two each by Wes Sandy and Kole Macho.
Each team had six penalty minutes on three infractions. Ely was zero-for-three on power plays. Greenway scored two of three times with the one-player advantage.
Ely’s schedule includes a home game on Saturday, Feb, 6, against Moose Lake. The puck drops at 2 p.m. The Timberwolves travel to Duluth Marshall on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Mask exemptions
ISD 696 Superintendent Erik Erie discussed the face mask mandate for state school athletes at the weekly Ely Safe School Advisory Council meeting last Thursday.
The Minnesota State High School League is abiding by the mandate of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) that requires all persons in youth and adult sports to wear a mask/face covering at all times, including practices, games or competitions.
Mask exemptions are granted for people who have medical or other health conditions, and disabilities or mental health, developmental, or behavioral needs that make it difficult to tolerate wearing a mask/face covering.
Those individuals seeking a mask/face covering exemption must obtain a written medical exemption from a licensed medical professional provided to a school administrator. Activities administrators are required to keep mask exemption documentation on file at the school. Coaches must have a list of student-athletes who have exemptions.
Erie questioned if school teams should be participating in contests if some opposing team members were not wearing protective face masks.
Coombe noted that recent contests have taken place between the Timberwolves and Bigfork and Littlefork/Big Falls basketball teams.
“Bigfork had a kid who wasn’t wearing a mask when they played here a couple of weeks ago, and it is my understanding that Littlefork/Big Falls teams have several exempt players, at least five or six, in their girls basketball program,” he said. “It is just another piece of the puzzle that we are dealing with.”
Erie asked, “It is fine that they have the exemptions, but do we make a choice, if they are not going to be wearing masks, to play that team? Do we even have the choice to do that?”
Coombe said a school could opt out of a game.
“A school could pull out. The bottom line is, the team is within the rules with those exemptions. It would be up to the school or an individual if they wish to participate or not.”
Coombe stressed that there needs to be a better system of notification by schools to their opponents if they have players with the mask mandate exemption.
“Bigfork just showed up here and said they had a player with an exemption,” he said. “Now that we are into the season a bit, more people are aware of it.”
He asked for more common sense by all schools to notify their opponents, in advance, of any players with the mask exemptions.
Coombe was not aware of any Ely athletes with a current physician-approved mask exemption.

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