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The hockey nets at the Garfield rink in Willmar sat unused on Thursday as cold weather kept would-be skaters indoors. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Weather puts a freeze on local games

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local Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Having already dealt with an uncooperative spring that forced athletic directors to scramble to find dates for their postponed events, and already having to deal with the usual postponements due to snowing and adverse conditions in the winter, a new element rears its ugly head. Bitter cold.

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The majority of the scheduled events in the area were postponed on Thursday due to frigid temperatures and a brutal wind chill. The temperature was minus-18 as of 5 p.m. Thursday in Willmar.

"I can not remember anything of this sort in the recent years," said Montevideo athletic director Bob Grey. "I do recall Governor Arne Carlson closed the schools in Minnesota statewide (1996), but in my 21 years here, it is a one-time deal. We've had school start late due to cold, and there have been times when we have postponed some junior high events due to the cold, but I do not remember ever cancelling varsity events due to the cold. We have traveled and played on some pretty cold nights."

Years ago, bus drivers that were sent out for a sporting event on a bitter cold night didn't have cell phones to use in case of an emergency. Some buses were equipped with CB radios, although they weren't always reliable. But even with modern technology, schools didn't hesitate tot postpone events Thursday night.

Now AD's will scramble once again to find open dates to reschedule events. Some school districts have already had to postpone events on three or four different dates this winter due to heavy snow, icy roads and blowing and drifting. But this is the first time that nearly an entire night of sporting events in this area was postponed because of the temperature.

Litchfield athletic director Mike Sundin remembers that 1996 season when Carlson shut down schools due to the cold. He remembers because one of the Litchfield teams played the night before in frigid temperatures.

"(Our boys hockey team) played in St. Louis Park against Benilde-St. Margaret's and our bus ran on diesel fuel and it kept on gelling up," said Sundin, who was then the LDC head boys hockey coach. "The governor canceled school statewide the next day. Under the old rating, it was minus-50 or more with the wind chill (for postponing events).

"We got beat that night and it was one of two losses that the LDC Dragon hockey team had as we made our march to the state tournament. I remember the Benilde fans chanting 'over-rated'. The Dragons were rated as high as fourth in the state in 1996. I remember that night as if it were yesterday; not just because of the loss, but the weather as well."

A few athletic events were not called off on Thursday. Most of those involved neighboring towns.

"I don't recall too many times when we have postponed or cancelled because of cold," said MACCRAY athletic director and head football coach Mike Dammann. "In the spring, we do (postpone) and I've heard of heat-related postponements in the fall. Bitter cold? Not really and it is not even windy out, which would make it extremely tough. I guess if you are involved in high school athletics long enough, there are not too many things that surprise you."

The New London-Spicer girls basketball team has already had three games postponed this winter due to snow, drifting and now cold.

"I can't remember a time when one of our games was postponed just because it was too cold to play," said Mike Dreier, who has been the head girls basketball coach at NLS for 31 years. "But then, when you've been in it this long, my mind might be going, too."

Or it could be attributed to brain freeze.

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