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Wilderness pause season until after Christmas


November 27, 2020

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Look for junior hockey and its local stars after Christmas this season as the Cloquet-based Minnesota Wilderness take Covid-19 precautions.

Instead of playing their home opener on Saturday night, the Minnesota Wilderness will now put a hold on hockey operations until at least late December.

Following the latest executive order put out by the state of Minnesota, the local junior hockey team will be pausing its season until at least Dec. 26, general manager Dave Boitz stated in a press release.

"Our players and coaches have done an outstanding job of mitigating risk and responding quickly to keep our players as healthy as possible," Boitz said in a statement to fans and players on the team website. "I want to thank all of you for your continued support as it has been a struggle working through the consequences of the ongoing pandemic, and with a vaccine on the horizon and a light at the end of the tunnel our plan is to reschedule most, if not all, of our games until after the new year."

Wilderness head coach Jon Vaillancourt said players were sent home and will be there until the day after Christmas,

"We would love to be playing hockey right now," he said. "But with the governor's new executive order, we decided in the best interest of players' safety, fans' safety and the community's safety, it was decided to put in place a pause until the new year."

While the Wilderness have seen some rescheduled games in the early part of the season, they did get one final game in Friday night before the new order went into effect. The Austin Bruins defeated Minnesota 3-2 in a shootout in Austin. So far this season, the Wilderness played three total games - all on the road - and had three home openers all get canceled. Their record so far is 1-1-1.

A total of eight teams in the NAHL have now paused their season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and several other games across the league have been postponed.

"If you look out east, Massachusetts is now under a similar order that Minnesota has and they have had teams forced to pause their seasons as well," Vaillancourt said.

The Wilderness hope to have all players back on Dec. 26 or Dec. 27 by the latest, unless something changes with the governor's orders between now and then.

Coach Vaillancourt said that the team will be holding meetings in the near future via Zoom and he will be making phone calls to the players on a regular basis. He hopes as they get closer to reporting back to Cloquet there can be some virtual team activities.

The Wilderness will also be looking to restructure their schedule as the governor's order is set to end on Dec. 18. The Wilderness encourage fans to follow their website for up-to-the-minute news regarding the restart of the season.

"We are looking forward to 2021 and hope that the team will be able to compete in front of more fans and, more importantly, college and professional scouts," Boitz said.


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