In regard to a return to winter sports, the Minnesota State High School League firmly put the ball back into Gov. Tim Walz’s court earlier today.

During a virtual board of directors meeting, the MSHSL approved three calendar models for the winter sports season.

All three models are contingent on starting whenever the governor lifts the current COVID-19 restrictions that were enacted via executive order in mid-November. That current order expires Dec. 18, meaning that hockey, basketball, skiing, swimming and wrestling all could begin practice the following Monday and games could start as early as Jan. 4.

If the shutdown is extended, the League also approved practice start dates of Jan. 4 and Jan. 18.

While section tournaments were approved, further discussion is planned on the status of state tournaments. The MSHSL has not held state tournaments since last March, when a pandemic was declared, but the calendars approved Thursday hold open a week at the end of every sport’s season.

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All three of those models indicate that state tournaments for hockey and basketball would be held no later than the week of March 29. The first calendar model approved would provide for 15-week seasons for boys and girls basketball and hockey. Each of the other two models would decrease the length of the season by two weeks.

Earlier this fall, the MSHSL board declared winter sports could play up to 70% of its normal match schedule.

Under the current structure, spring sports would not be affected much. Baseball, softball and track and field would hold 12-week seasons while all state tournaments would need to be held no later than the week of June 14.

Despite the ruling, individual school districts will still determine the start dates for their athletic programs. That could mean if a school has extended its distance learning policy, a delay to the start of the athletic season might ensue.