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Hockey players in trouble after cavorting with cows
Life in Minnesota

Jonathon Gatehouse
National Post


Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Twenty-seven members of a Minnesota hockey team face criminal charges following complaints that players beefed up by chasing cows during their off-ice training.

The Iron Range Yellow Jackets, a Grand Rapids, Minn., squad that plays many of its games in Northwestern Ontario as part of the Superior International Junior A Hockey League, were arrested for trespassing and obstruction of justice as a result of a bizarre team practice on Friday.

Three police departments were called to the University of Minnesota's North Central Research farm after scientists reported a large group of young men were running through their pasture disturbing the livestock.

"I went outside and asked them to leave and they totally ignored me," Dan Brown, a researcher with the Grand Rapids experimental farm, said yesterday. "We were concerned about one of the players getting kicked or the cattle running through the fence."

Mr. Brown said the 50 Black Angus cows do not appear to have suffered any long-term trauma from the incident, but were definitely spooked by the burly players running in circles around their favourite feeding grounds.

Eric Ballard, coach and general manager of the team, said the reports of bovine misconduct have been blown out of proportion. The players, aged between 16 and 20, were taking part in a 90-minute run as part of a special one-day strength and conditioning program run by a former U.S. Navy Seal, he said.

"The idea is to run through the cow crap, run through the barriers, break down the walls and just focus your mind on the cardio work," Mr. Ballard said. "It's something out of the ordinary, something that is not harmful to anyone. We don't have any interaction with the cattle."

Mr. Ballard said the club, which has been in existence for three years and has twice finished as runner-up in the U.S. national junior championships, used the same fenced-in field for its "hell run" last season and no one complained.

The Iron Jackets are scheduled to appear in Grand Rapids court to answer to the charges later this month. Mr. Ballard said the team has advised players to hire a lawyer.

News of the Iron Jackets' unorthodox training methods has rival teams scratching their heads.

"I guess every coach has different ideas on how to get his guys into shape," said Al Trotz, coach of the Dryden, Ont., Ice Dogs. Mr. Trotz said he will use the incident to psych up his players when the two teams meet in a season-opening tournament in Thunder Bay this weekend.

"We're going to have a good chuckle at the rink," he said. "I don't think the other teams are going to let them forget this."

© Copyright 2001 National Post
 
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