Team has 25 players and staff testing positive for COVID-19
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Nils Höglander also tested positive for COVID-19 becoming the 17th Canuck player to have the virus.
The Vancouver Canucks have had many challenges during the shortened 56-game season. The majority of these challenges have occurred on the ice, with the team struggling to play consistently. But off the ice, a recent COVID-19 breakout has 25 players and coaching staff on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Initially, it was 16 Canuck players and a member of the coaching staff as reported by Sportsnet; the following players tested positive for the virus: Travis Boyd, Jalen Chatfield, Thatcher Demko, Alex Edler, Adam Gaudette, Travis Hamonic, Jayce Hawyrluk, Braden Holtby, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, Zack MacEwen, Marc Michaelis, Tyler Motte, Tyler Myers, Antoine Roussel, and Brandon Sutter. On April 5, Vancouver Is Awesome reported that Nils Höglander also tested positive for COVID-19 becoming the 17th Canuck player to have the virus. Subsequently, the number of cases continues to increase.
The game of hockey is secondary and the most important priority is for the Canuck players and staff affected to make a full recovery. But this interruption leaves Canuck fans wondering if the team will be able to finish the season. The Canucks are out of a playoff spot and in the event they are unable to finish the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it will not affect the playoff standings in the North Division. Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Montreal are the top four teams in the North Division currently with a playoff spot secured.
The Canucks posted on Twitter on April 4, “COVID-19 continues to be very serious and we encourage everyone to follow the public health orders. We hope to have further information to share in the coming days. Stay safe and healthy.” Canucks GM, Jim Benning, released a statement the same day: “On behalf of our entire team, I want to thank fans everywhere for their support this past week. Our players, coaches, and their families are grateful for the messages and we all hope for a return to full health as soon as possible.”
As of April 14, the Canucks have had eight games postponed due to the virus. They were scheduled to begin a long seven-game road trip (April 3 to 14). According to Sportsnet, the Canucks’ COVID-19 outbreak is currently not only the largest for a Canadian-based NHL team at one time this season, it is also the largest that any North American sports team has encountered this pandemic. Prior COVID-19 outbreaks in the NHL occurred only in the US. In January 2021, the Dallas Stars had their first four games rescheduled after 17 players tested positive and the majority of players were asymptomatic. Also, the New Jersey Devils had seven games postponed with 19 players added to the COVID protocol list, and the Buffalo Sabres had six games postponed after nine players were added to the protocol list.
Edmonton Oilers star and captain, Connor McDavid, offered his thoughts and well wishes to the Canucks organization—telling the media on April 4: “It’s something that we’ve talked about all season long, is keeping [COVID] out. It’s a huge part of the season, unfortunately. What’s happening in Vancouver is a lot more than hockey. We’re obviously hoping everyone is doing all right and families and everyone are okay, and they get healthy as quickly as possible.”
Former Canuck defenceman, Chris Tanev (who now plays for Calgary) said he has been in contact with his former teammates during their COVID-19 ordeal. “First and foremost, I think you just hope everyone’s okay and no one has any serious side effects or anything from testing positive or catching COVID—obviously that’s the most important thing,” Tanev said to reporters. “Going from there, who knows what’s going to happen. The league is going to make the calls on all that, how long they’re shut down and if we’re going to play make up games or whatnot. I think everyone is still waiting to see what happens with that.”
Brent Sutter, former NHL player, is now the owner, GM, and coach of the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. He is concerned about his son, Brandon, who plays for the Canucks and also has the virus. “We FaceTimed last night, and he was pretty down and out, feeling pretty sick,” Sutter said in a telephone interview with Sportsnet. “Brandon has tested positive, and he’s got symptoms—body aches, headaches, chills—just like you have the flu. I guess each guy is different in terms of how it affects you, especially with this Brazilian variant. For younger people to get this sick, it’s scary.”