At the beginning of the month, USA Hockey announced their roster for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games, which will be held in February in Norway.
This is the second time the US has sent a boy's team to this tournament, and will feature some of the top 2000-born players in the country. But unlike the first time the US participated, this year's tournament will be held in mid-February, which has created some difficult situations for players involved. The tournament runs from February 12-21, which forced many high school players from Minnesota and the East Coast to decline offers, as it coincides with high school playoffs.
One high school player selected was Eau Claire Memorial(WI) defenseman Ty Emberson. Wisconsin's high school playoffs run a bit later, meaning Emberson would only potentially miss an early round playoff game before returning from Norway.
But a ruling from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for Wisconsin high school athletics, has put Emberson in a difficult spot.
The WIAA initially ruled that Emberson would be ineligible to return to the Memorial Old Abes after the tournament as a result of being rostered on an outside team during the high school season. But the Emberson family filed for a waiver after proving that the Youth Olympic Games is recognized and sanctioned by both the US Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee, which counts as an exception to the outside roster rule.
That waiver was granted and it should have solved the problem. However, the rule also states that no special waiver can be given if the non-school participation occurs during the WIAA state tournament.
The regional round of the Wisconsin state tournament occurs February 16th-19th this year, with the sectional round being held February 23rd-27th and the state tournament held March 3rd-5th. The WIAA ruled that Emberson must be present for Memorial's regional round game--not even in transit from Norway to Wisconsin, but physically present at the game--in order to be eligible for the rest of the tournament. The Emberson family again applied for a waiver that would allow Emberson to participate as long as he was back for Memorial's sectional round game, and that was denied by the WIAA.
The next step is for the Emberson family to appeal that decision to the WIAA Board of Control. Their next scheduled meeting in January 27th, though the family has requested that the Board of Control exercise their right to hold a special meeting prior to January 5th, when USA Hockey must certify their roster with the IOC.
The whole thing seems like a very clear case of bureaucracy and rules standing in the way of an easy common sense decision. Traveling internationally to Norway and representing the United States is a tremendous opportunity for Emberson. And if his team is fine with him missing an early round tournament game--expected to be a very easy win for the Old Abes even without Emberson present--it shouldn't be a problem for anyone else. It seems very unfair to force the decision of choosing one or the other on Emberson.