- The ‘target date’ for the Vancouver Canucks to return to action is April 16.
- The Canucks have suffered a rash of positive COVID-19 tests with as many as 25 players and coaches stricken.
- Eight Vancouver games have been postponed from March 13 through April 14.
One of the more unexpected turn of events during what is hopefully the ‘endgame’ of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the turnaround of fortune experienced by the US and Canada. During the early and mid phases of the pandemic, Canada was a model for the world with an efficient national health system and cooperative citizenry that helped minimize the spread of COVID-19. The United States, by contrast, was a complete dumpster fire as Donald Trump and his minions inexplicably tried to politicize the virus and many of the efforts to mitigate it. The US quickly became one of the worst countries in the developed world at managing the pandemic.
Things have changed dramatically. Canada’s vaccine rollout has been every bit the trainwreck that the early response of the United States was. Most Canadians have yet to be vaccinated and the country has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts of any developed economy. Infections are now surging and new lockdowns are being implemented. The US, meanwhile, has been cranking out millions of vaccines per day. Bolstered by the involvement of the private sector the US has administered over 183 million doses of vaccines as of Saturday morning. Over 70 million Americans have been fully vaccinated and over 117 million have received at least one dose.
Against this backdrop, the Vancouver Canucks have become arguably the hardest hit team in *any* pro sport during the pandemic–and certainly of the current NHL season. On Thursday, the team hit a dubious high mark for the league COVID protocol with 21 players and four members of the coaching staff having tested positive. Another player was listed as a ‘close contact’. As of April 7, 19 of the 22 players on the active roster were in the league COVID protocol and the entire team was in quarantine.
Despite this bad news, the NHL is hopeful that the Canucks can complete the entire 56 game regular season. This, despite having not played since March 24. All told, the Canucks have had eight games postponed between March 31 and April 14. There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier today, the NHL reported that the Cancuks will be allowed to return to team facilities for practice on Sunday and the target date for the resumption of play is April 16.
Hopefully, the rest of the league will learn a valuable lesson from this. After an investigation, it appears that a single player becoming infected ‘in a community setting’ set off the whole thing:
An ongoing investigation by Vancouver Coastal Health and club contact tracing staff attributes the source infection to a single individual obtained in a community setting, which has since been identified by public health as a public exposure location. Rapid spread of infection throughout the team indicates a link between contacts and the primary case.
The NHL has also announced that the regular season will be extended to May 16. This has left the schedule for the playoffs ‘TBA’ as this statement from the league explains:
“The NHL will continue to assess the progression of the regular season before announcing definitive dates for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the newly revised end date for the regular season for the North Division, it is possible that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the East, Central and West Divisions could open a few days earlier than the North Division.”
Since the start of the NHL season on January 13 the league has been forced to postpone 54 games–49 due to various COVID-19 issues and 5 due to incliment weather.