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Other’s opinion: Minnesota Hockey’s response to COVID ‘pause’ deserves praise

Star Tribune

Thank you, Minnesota Hockey, for your organization’s good sportsmanship this week as disappointment sets in over the state’s new four-week-long pandemic “pause” on athletics and other activities.

The organization, once known as the Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association, is the governing body of youth and amateur hockey in Minnesota.

After Gov. Tim Walz announced new COVID-19 control restrictions on Wednesday, the organization’s leaders issued a statement that should be required reading not just for hockey families, but for all Minnesotans frustrated by the pandemic.

The letter, signed by the group’s president, Steve Oleheiser, and its executive director, Glen Andresen, offers a lasting lesson in how to respond to a painful setback. They do so with respect, responsibility and optimism, and call on readers to do the same.

It surely took time to compose this thoughtful statement. The far easier route would have simply been to acknowledge the deep loss that players and families feel and then leave it at that. But the hockey community is much better served by the grace notes Oleheiser and Andresen struck in trying to tamp down anger and conveying a vital message to take this pandemic seriously.

In saying COVID can be a “devastating virus, as too many people have found out across the country and state,” they’re urging players and families to think of the greater good and respond with teamwork to protect loved ones.

The authors also do not flinch from the role that hockey may have had in spreading the virus, noting correctly that hockey is associated with the most outbreaks of any youth sport in Minnesota. While the “large majority” of their members followed preventive measures, they also wrote that “many of us can and need to do more.”

The statement ends on an upbeat note. The pause on play begins Friday and ends Dec. 18. If all goes well, there will be at least three months left in the season, with the potential for an extension, they wrote. While the season is on hold, there’s nevertheless “still much more time for our kids to create lifelong memories and improve their skills.”

That’s a welcome perspective for players, parents and fans. The pause isn’t forever. Nor is it ideal. But this time on the sidelines, used wisely, can be yet another lesson young athletes glean about dealing with life’s setbacks.