Maple Grove is one of the close to 40 teams signed up to play in the Legacy Bridge League set to start Nov. 6. Photo by Tim Kolehmainen, Breakdown Sports Media
Editor's Note: The original article has been modified to note that the season started with its first game on Oct. 27, not Nov. 6 as originally stated. Also, there's been a clarification on the length and format of games. That information has been added to the bottom of this story.
The official start of the boys’ high school hockey season has been delayed by two weeks, yet games are starting sooner than you might think.
Confused? So are many fans, parents, players and even coaches about the concept of a “bridge season” that started on Oct. 27 and concludes on Nov. 22, the day before the start of the shortened (18 regular season games instead of the usual 25) Minnesota State High School League season.
The bridge season is sanctioned by Minnesota Hockey in cooperation with the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association. It serves as something of a replacement for the missed weeks and games — a “bridge” until the delayed start of the MSHSL season. According to former MHCA president and current Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Ken Pauly, 36 teams have signed up for the bridge season, with more than 20 others expressing interest.
Schedules are still being finalized but, as an example, a parent-organized team of Benilde-St. Margaret’s players is set to kick off its bridge season on Nov. 6 with a 4:45 p.m. matchup against Orono at the Orono Ice Arena. That’s one of nine games currently scheduled for the Benilde-St. Margaret’s squad, which will also be playing teams of Maple Grove, Cretin-Derham Hall, Holy Family and Delano players, among others.
To learn more about the bridge concept and clear up some of the confusion, we asked Pauly several questions about the mini-season set to start next week.
Q: Are high school coaches allowed to coach these teams?
A: Not presently.
Q: Who will be organizing and coaching these teams?
A: The coaching staff will be put in place by each high school hockey community and its parents and boosters.
Q: What level of USA Hockey certification is required for parent/volunteer coaches?
A: For coaches, you will need to register with USA Hockey as a player/coach for the 2020 2021 season, complete USA Hockey’s Background Screening, complete USA Hockey’s Safesport Training and complete USA Hockey’s MD18 Age Module. (Links for registering are listed below)
Q: How do players get certified with USA Hockey?
A: For the players, they will also need to register with USA Hockey for the 2020-2021 season and register for this league on MN Hockey’s registration page. Players with a date of birth of 2003 and older are also required to complete USA Hockey’s Safesport Training. (Links are listed below).
Q: What sort of COVID-related policies designed to protect players and coaches will be in place?
A: The league will follow all Minnesota Hockey COVID protocols and any protocols mandated by rinks and facilities.
Q: Will these be real games with referees and official scores and statistics, or just scrimmages like those held during the summer and directly before the season?
A: Yes, these are real games that will use Minnesota Hockey/USA Hockey officials and rules. Scores and statistics will be kept.
Q: Will players from the Upper Midwest High School Elite League and Minnesota Hockey High Performance programs be allowed to participate?
A: Yes – but only after those leagues have come to completion.
Q: How many games will each team play? How will matchups be determined? Will teams be grouped in any kind of divisions or sections?
A: The number of games are up to each team. Teams will schedule their own games. As of now there will be no sections or leagues. However in the event that MSHSL shuts down and Minnesota Hockey continues to play then more teams may join and divisional and section play may be needed.
Q: Which teams have signed up so far? Will all of their top players be involved?
A: Thirty-six teams are currently registered. We anticipate full participation of all players.
Q: Is there a cutoff date for teams interested in joining the league?
Q: When do the games start? When will they end?
A: Games will begin on November 6th. The last games are scheduled for November 22nd.
Q: If several teams’ high schools shut down extra curricular activities, can those teams continue to play in the bridge league even after the MSHSL season begins?
A: No. The bridge season has a hard end once the high school season starts. There are no plans to run the bridge season concurrently with the MSHSL season.
Q: You are saying if the MSHSL should decide to cancel the boys’ hockey season, it’s possible the bridge season could be extended? What about the idea of a state tournament?
A: Minnesota Hockey has said they would be willing to re-open the bridge season and certainly discuss hosting a state tournament.
Clarification of game format: All “A” pool games will consist of three 17-minute periods. If ice time is limited games may switch to running time as needed. Five-minute sudden-death overtimes will be 3-on-3.