The idea seemed simple enough to Waseca high school hockey players: Wear a game jersey throughout the season to honor local police and an officer recently shot and wounded in the line of duty.
About the time a Minnesota company donated and delivered the jerseys this week, the players learned they can't wear them during games.
The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) informed the coaches that the jerseys don't comply with rules for special recognition or commemorative or memorial patches — a decision that some critics took issue with on social media.
"You should be ashamed of yourselves," said one tweet.
MSHSL officials issued a written statement Friday saying it has communicated with Waseca school officials this past week about "identifying ways in which appropriate recognition can be demonstrated." The design would have to meet the league's uniform rules and policies that limit the size of alterations to commemorate individuals or events, the statement said.
The Waseca jersey nixed by the league is emblazoned with the words "Waseca Police" and officer Arik Matson's badge number on the front and his last name above each player's number on the back.
While some on social media lambasted the league's decision, others noted the uniform policy has been around for some time. "There has literally been hundreds of teams who have honored various people or causes and followed the rules," said one post.
Boys hockey coach Chris Storey isn't about to get entangled in the social media grumbling.
"I don't know if there's a fight to be had," Storey said minutes before his team took to the ice for Thursday's game. "It's in their bylaws. … We're just trying to comply the best we can."
Instead of wearing the jerseys during the game, the Waseca Bluejays are donning them during their pregame warm-ups.
"We would like to wear them for a game," Storey said. "If not, it's not going to stop us from raising awareness and supporting this officer. It's the best we can do right now."
At the end of the season, the boys and girls hockey teams will auction the jerseys to raise money for the officer's family. "As a kid — a high school player … they can feel they're part of a solution and that they're trying to do something good," Storey said.
Matson was shot in the head earlier this month while responding to a call with three other officers. According to Caring Bridge posts, he's showing signs of recovery.
"He's able to slightly nod 'yes' or shake his head 'no' to questions but it's easier for him to give us a thumbs up or down," said the latest post.
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $191,000.
It's unfortunate, Storey said, that people don't thank those who serve until something bad happens. "How easy is it to walk by someone and you didn't even shake their hand or thank them for what they did," Storey said.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788