2020 is a year of adjustments, especially for sports teams who have constantly changing schedules with postponements and cancellations at nearly every turn.
That’s no different for a Minnesota team that is calling the Dakotas home for a couple of weeks.
“It’s just being away from what you’re used to, and just getting out of your comfort zone a little bit,” defenseman Michael Spinner said. “You have your daily routine and then you’re thrown into something like this.”
After playing just five games in October, the St. Cloud Norsemen have been sidelined due to COVID. Then, the state of Minnesota paused adult and youth sports activities. Now, the NAHL team is taking the show on the road.
“It’s been different being on the road with everything going on,” forward Ben Helgeson said. “Obviously in the mix of a pandemic, you kind of have to be ready for everything going on right now.”
The Norsemen are spending 17 days traveling to play five games between Bismarck, Minot and Aberdeen.
“It is a great opportunity for us,” head coach Corey Millen said. “There are teams that are unable to skate, be together and play games, so we seized the opportunity. So yeah, we’re happy to be out here and practice and get on the ice, for sure.”
The Norsemen are essentially starting their season over. After not playing a game for more than a month, they’ve spent the last week hitting the ice with 13 players who have played in one or less games.
“Thursday night when we got off the bus and we practiced that evening we were pretty rusty, pretty rusty,” Millen said. “So there’s been a big growth here, but we’re just going to do the best we can and go from there.”
All of that growth hasn’t happened on the ice. Bouncing between hotels and ice rinks has also strengthened the bond off the ice.
“That’s the joke we all say,” Helgeson said. “We’re living the dream every day playing junior hockey. You know, it is true. It’s the camaraderie with the boys. You’re always with your buddies and your best friends on the team, and that’s the biggest thing we can take away from it.”
The Norsemen aren’t doing it all on their own. Coach Millen says Bismarck, Minot and Aberdeen are all pitching in to help with the logistics of the trip.
“It’s critical for every team to be able to help each other out,” Millen said. “As a league, we kind of rely on everybody. Every team’s relying on the other teams really, essentially. Again, I think everyone is trying to do the most they can to get these kids on the ice and to play hockey.”