- The Vancouver Canucks returned to practice following a massive COVID-19 outbreak among players and staff.
- At one point last week, 25 players and coaches were in NHL COVID protocol.
- Vancouver will resume their season on Friday against the Edmonton Oilers
The Vancouver Canucks have held their first practice since an 11 day hiatus caused by what is arguably the worst COVID-19 outbreak among any North American professional sports team to date. They’re definitely the hardest hit team of the current NHL season. Late last week, 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’ and sidelined as a result. 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.
The original plan was for the team to return to practice on Sunday but that was pushed back until Monday after another Canucks player tested positive for the coronavirus. As of today, Vancouver has not played since March 24. The Canucks have had eight games postponed between March 31 and April 14 but the NHL renmains hopeful that the Canucks can complete the entire 56 game regular season. The Canucks are scheduled to resume their regular season on Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning said that the team is getting better though some players are still suffering lingering effects of COVID:
“Some guys feel really good and they’re ready to go. Other guys are still feeling some residual effects of the COVID. But the next step for them is to start working out, getting on the ice and getting back in shape to play again.”
“We’ll just deal with, if they have any effects through this week, skating and stuff with the COVID, we’ll deal with them, but hopefully when we play Friday night we’ve got our full team back in play.”
Forward Tanner Pearson was one of the only Vancouver players who didn’t test positive:
“Obviously I’ve stayed on the right side of it. For the most part, our team hasn’t. I’ve talked to most guys that got it, array of symptoms, some are still battling them, so hopefully that gets in a positive way better soon. It’s one of those things where you just hope everyone that got it and their families are doing well and can recover from it.”
Pearson notes that the tough schedule ahead will hopefully be mitigated by having six straight at home:
“We’ve got a tough schedule coming up here once we get started playing. The good thing about it, the way I see it, is in the next couple of weeks, we’re still at home, so hopefully our guys get feeling better, their families get feeling better, and then once we get on the road, they have that peace of mind where their families are doing well and they can concentrate on the hockey when we’re on the road.”
“It’s not going to be easy, but in this season with all the things you have to deal with, with COVID and stuff, it is what it is.”
He’s clearly anxious to get back on the ice:
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m excited. I want to play. It’s way better than sitting in an apartment all day and just waiting for the OK that you’re good to come back to the rink or waiting that day to see if you ended up positive. It’s stressful, and hopefully we get over this soon.”
As a result of schedule issues caused by COVID postponements the NHL has pushed back the end of the regular season. The regular season was originally set to conclude May 8 but will now end on May 16. There have been 49 games postponed because of COVID-19 protocol since the NHL season began on January 13.