#FreeGunnar: Mahtomedi rallies around student who jumped the glass at Minnesota boys hockey state tournament

Gunnar Sather wanted to celebrate with his friends last year when the Mahtomedi boys hockey team won the Class 1A state championship.

That’s exactly what he did. That barrier in front of him be damned.

As the Zephyrs raced over to their student section, officially state champions after a game-winner from Jonny Grove in double overtime against Warroad, Sather sprung into action. Literally. He went viral on social media after jumping the glass at Xcel Energy Center to join in the celebration on the ice.

Unfortunately for Sather, that decision ended up having lasting effects. The punishments included a two-year ban from the Xcel Energy Center, an eight-game suspension from baseball last year, which included the state championship game, and a two-game suspension from football this year. Additionally, the Minnesota State High School League continued to make an example of Sather this year, barring him from attending sectional and state tournaments.

“It’s unfortunate that he has the label on him that he does,” Mahtomedi boys hockey coach Jeff Poeschl said this week. “He is a real character young man.”

His classmates agree, and they got creative this week at the boys hockey state tournament as a way to show their support. The Mahtomedi student section showed up for the quarterfinal matchup wearing shirts with the words “FREE GUNNAR” displayed prominently on the front. There’s also a drawing capturing the iconic moment when Sather jumped the glass.

“It’s awesome,” Mahtomedi goaltender Charlie Brandt said. “He was like the biggest fan ever. Now he can’t come to any of our games. They’re showing support for him, and I think it’s great.”

The shirts started as an idea from a group of Sather’s friends, including Ben Mitchell, who served as the unofficial spokesperson for the movement. He said they came up with the design last week and enlisted the help of an art teacher to help screen print the shirts in advance of the state tournament.

“We thought maybe 20 or 30 people might buy the shirts, and we showed up and it was completely packed,” Mitchell said. “We had no idea it was going to blow up.”

Mitchell estimated they have sold more than 300 shirts this week, adding that the plan is to donate the proceeds to charity to make sure something good comes out of this situation.

“It scared us a little bit how much it blew up because we don’t want him getting in any more trouble,” Mitchell said. “He stayed out of it and let us do our thing because he doesn’t want to give them any more reason to punish him.”

Asked for his opinion, Mitchell expressed frustration with how everything has been handled by the Minnesota State High School League.

“He’s not a bad kid,” Mitchell said. “It’s ridiculous they decided to make an example out of him and push all the punishments that they could on him. There was nothing malicious about his idea to jump the glass. They have made this way, way bigger than it needed to be.”

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