Community behind floor hockey team
The Moorhead Spuds' adaptive floor hockey team offers students with disabilities a chance to represent their school and community.
MOORHEAD — Fans packed into the Moorhead Senior High gymnasium in support of the school’s adapted floor hockey team.
The Spuds played their first home game of the 2022-23 season on Thursday, Feb. 2, against the Anoka-Hennepin Mustangs and ultimately lost 5-3.
The start of the season marked the program’s second year in Moorhead, and it has immediately become a fan favorite. An eruption from the crowd poured out after Spuds junior Zack Rinowski notched the Spuds’ first goal of the game.
“It makes a good compliment,” said Rinowski on hearing the roar of the crowd following his goal.
Moorhead’s Daniel Coomala also netted one and Ayden Lushen scored from the other side of the floor.
Adapted sports have been sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League since 1992 for athletes that are cognitively impaired (CI), physically impaired (PI) or have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
Moorhead currently has a (CI) adapted floor hockey team and bowling teams for CI, PI and ASD athletes.
Spuds head coach Heidi Fisher said the sport helps connect the athletes with each other and their surroundings.
“You see friendships building and peers supporting each other with their games,” Fisher said. “It gives them something to have and gives them meaning. They’re more connected to the school through the sport aspect. It’s just really neat.”
The team’s players enjoy the roles they play on the team. Lu Faris, the Spuds’ goalie, said playing the position is her favorite part of the game with the “shots and the pads” being the best features.
Rinowski also enjoys his position and holds great pride in taking faceoffs as the center.
“My favorite part is I get to be a forward and center,” Rinowski said. “It’s the most important thing that I like to do and it's one of my favorite things. It gets me strong.”
Moorhead activity director Dean Haugo said the response from players has been overwhelmingly positive.
"You can just see the joy with them," Haugo said. "These kids love to compete, they like to put on a jersey and they love to be Spuds. It's nice to see that for a group. It's fun to see that with a group of kids that hadn't been able to do that previously."
One player's parent said they have seen a tremendous growth in play from last year to this year's team. They also mentioned they have been putting pressure on regional teams to form adaptive teams that are closer to Moorhead.
The Spuds have the only adaptive sports team north of St. Cloud. In order to play games, the team is forced to take long bus trips to schools near the Twin Cities to find competition. Rinowski said he likes riding the bus with teammates.
Moorhead currently has 14 players on the team, which is an ideal number for Fisher who makes sure everyone on the team plays.
"I like 14, if you have too many (players), it's really hard to sub," Fisher said.
The team practices twice a week and plays games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fisher added that practices help players learn the game and work on fundamentals. The Spuds have players of all different skill levels.
The team continues to grow with participation numbers climbing, and Fisher said that the players are starting to realize that they're becoming more competitive every day.
Since becoming Moorhead's activity director, Haugo said he's proud to bring sports to all of the school's students.
"It might be the thing I'm most proud of in my time in Moorhead," Haugo said. "We have been able to allow and create opportunities for students, who previously hadn't been able to put on a Spud jersey. It's refreshing simply to watch how much fun they have."
Haugo said that the school will look for other sports they can add for athletes down the road. But the main priority is making sure the current teams have all the resources necessary to be successful.
From fans chanting, to players firing off dance moves, the team's home game was an incredible atmosphere for everyone involved. Fisher said she was happy to be back home in front of a supportive community.
"We love our fans," Fisher said. "We have the best fans ever. So it is so great to be home. You know that our fans are there and everyone loves these kids so much."