After going more than a month with a handful of players at a maximum out in accordance with the NHL's COVID-19 protocol, the league is now facing a new challenge: the growing number of Vancouver Canucks players being put on the list (and subsequent games that need to be rescheduled).
What started as one game postponed March 31 after two players and a member of the coaching staff went on the COVID-19 list has now grown to four postponed games and 14 players on the list. According to The Athletic and TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun, the number of players affected is greater than that.
Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) celebrates his game-winning shootout goal against the Montreal Canadiens on March 8. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward, AP)
Here's what we know about the situation:
How many players are currently out?
It is worth noting that players do not have to test positive to be on the COVID-19 protocol list. Players are put on the list for several reasons, from testing positive for COVID-19 to high-risk close contact to quarantining after a trade. According to the list released Saturday by the NHL, there are 14 players on the list. They are Travis Boyd, Thatcher Demko, Alex Edler, Adam Gaudette, Travis Hamonic, Jayce Hawyrluk, Braden Holtby, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, Zack MacEwen, Tyler Motte, Tyler Myers, Antoine Roussel and Brandon Sutter.
The Athletic reports that the number is more than 14 as the team submitted other players on the taxi squad and one that is considered a "high-risk close contact." It also said that members of the coaching staff have been confirmed positives.
How are the Canucks feeling?
According to TSN reporter Darren Dreger, some members of the Canucks are "very ill." TSN's Farhan Lalji reported that "in some cases, team medical staff may have gone to the homes of players to administer IV treatments."
British Columbia has seen increasing COVID-19 cases: posting back-to-back days of daily records (1,018 cases between Thursday and Friday and 1,072 between Friday and Saturday, according to the Vancouver Sun. According to multiple reports, several cases within the team have been connected with the P.1 variant, which is thought to be more contagious. This variant first emerged in Brazil and was detected in the United States at the end of January 2021, according to the CDC.
“At St. Paul’s Hospital we’ve actually identified more P.1 variants than the entire United States,” Dr. Marc Romney, co-author and medical leader of the microbiology and virology department at the facility, said on March 26. “This is concerning because P.1 is associated with immune evasion.”
How has schedule been affected?
The Canucks have had four games postponed — through April 6. They are supposed to resume with a game against the Calgary Flames. However, The Athletic reports that it is likely that games through April 14 will be postponed, meaning it is unlikely that Vancouver will be able to complete its 56-game schedule by May 8, their scheduled last day of its season. Because of earlier postponements involving other teams, the NHL has rescheduled six games beyond May 8.
Because nonessential travel between Canada and the United States is restricted amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL realigned with divisions made up of teams in the general geographic areas for the 2021 season in order to limit travel. The league also implemented more games in a row featuring the same teams. The North Division had generally escaped COVID-19 issues — until late March, when three Montreal Canadiens games were postponed. Aside from Vancouver, the Canadiens (Joel Armia and Eric Staal, who is quarantined after a trade) and Ottawa Senators (Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto) currently have players on the COVID-19 list.
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