- The Vancouver Canucks game against the Edmonton Oilers scheduled for Friday has been postponed.
- At one point last week, 25 players and coaches were in NHL COVID protocol.
- A number of Canucks’ players thought that the league was rushing them back to action too quickly.
The Vancouver Canucks haven’t played since March 24 but their return to action will be delayed even further. The original plan was for the Canucks to face the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night but after complaints from some Vancouver players about being ‘rushed back’ by the NHL the league has relented. The Friday game against Edmonton has been postponed and the league is expected to release a revised schedule earlier in the day.
The NHL released this statement indicating that they wanted to give Vancouver more time for recovery:
“The decision to extend the period prior to the team’s resumption of play was made to provide club staff and players with additional time for recovery and preparation following its recent COVID outbreak. The NHL made the decision with input from the League’s, NHLPA’s and club’s medical groups.”
While the league made it sound as if they had made the move proactively that isn’t really the case. Their hand was forced by Vancouver players questioning the rapid timetable for the return to action. In particular, forward JT Miller took exception with the league’s plans:
“What we’re being asked to do is not going to be too safe, if you’re asking me. It’s kind of frustrating, if I’m being honest with you. We try to talk about the No. 1 priority being the players health and their families’ safety, and it’s almost impossible to do what they’ve asked us to do here on our return.”
Vancouver GM Jim Benning was more conciliatory than Miller:
“Our medical and hockey operations staff have collaborated daily with NHL, NHLPA and local health officials on the health and well-being of the team and our players’ readiness to play. I would like to thank our players, our upcoming opponents, and everyone involved at the NHL and NHLPA for their input, guidance and understanding through this process. Above all else, the health and safety of players, staff and families remains the priority.
Benning indicated that some players would not be able to receive medical clearance by Friday:
“Before every player resumes training, a full medical evaluation is carried out, consistent with return to play NHL COVID protocols. As of today, certain players have passed evaluation, however many are not yet cleared and extra recovery time is required. Our medical staff are confident the recovery process for those players will be aided by an additional couple of days.”
Edmonton captain Connor McDavid was sympathetic with the Canucks’ plight–to a point:
“Maybe you would feel better after three practices, but I think it’s going to be hard either way. The situation has put them in a difficult spot, but they’re going to need to get in and play games eventually. When that is, is out of our control. You obviously feel for them in this situation and you hope that they’re feeling well, their families are feeling well, and no one is affected by it long term.”
At one point last week 19 of the 22 players on the Canucks’ active roster were in COVID protocol. As of Thursday, only three players remained on the COVID list.