The NHL says it hopes the Vancouver Canucks can complete a 56-game schedule even though 25 team members have tested positive for a variant of COVID-19, but some experts are wondering if that is possible.
The Canucks issued a statement Wednesday saying that 21 players, including three on the taxi team, plus four staff members, “have tested positive and infection at the source is confirmed as a variant.” Which variant has not been confirmed.
As the Canucks had 18 players on the COVID-19 protocol roster on Tuesday, an NHL spokesperson said “a 56-game season is still the focus,” but if necessary, the league has flexibility in planning the opening of the playoffs. Asked on Wednesday if anything had changed following the Canucks’ announcement, the spokesperson replied: “My answer is the same as yesterday.
An NHL agent said he had heard nothing about plans to cancel games.
“So far it looks like they will go ahead based on what I hear,” the agent said.
WATCH | Concerns escalate amid the growing Canucks epidemic:
Dr Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, said studies have shown that people affected by the different variants “will recover at rate”, but depending on the severity of the virus – gamers professionals may need more time to regain their conditioning.
“They may be out of quarantine in 10 days, but a lot of players may not come back after being deemed clear,” he said. “They might need a few weeks to get back to normal in hockey.”
The Canucks’ situation is complicated because many players have contracted the virus.
“If you have an outbreak of five or six [players] you can fill in the gaps, you can wait for some of your players to condition themselves properly, “said Chagla.” At 21 players it’s 21 different players who have to condition themselves properly, it’s 21 players who have to get back in shape. , get over their COVID and heal. “
Curing the virus is different from rehabilitating after a sports injury.
“[A] it looks like a lot of these guys were in bed at home, “said Chagla.” You lose muscle mass; you lose that elite form. “
WATCH | Vancouver Canucks sidelined by COVID-19:
When Canuck’s first player tested positive last week, Vancouver’s next four games were postponed. The Canucks were scheduled to return to play Thursday in Calgary against the Flames. The Canucks website now says that game and another Saturday in Calgary have been postponed.
The NHL season was originally scheduled to end on May 8, but has already been extended until May 11 to allow for previously postponed games.
The Canucks have 19 regular season games to play.
The cost of doing business
Corey Hirsch, a former NHL goaltender who is now a member of the Canucks broadcasting team, worries about the physical strain placed on players if they are supposed to play their remaining games in a short period of time. have beaten the virus.
“You mean the whole team,” he said. “You’re not just talking about a guy. My question would be whether they are at risk of injury due to their physical form.”
Moshe Lander, senior lecturer in sports, gaming and gambling economics at Concordia University in Montreal, said the Canucks’ situation is the result of the NHL “standing still for a long time. season”.
“The NHL has accepted that this is the cost of doing business,” Lander said.
Delaying the start of the playoffs creates problems for teams in the other three divisions, Lander said. The league also won’t want the playoffs to extend until the end of July due to the Tokyo Summer Games.
Last year’s playoffs, which included a play-in round, started on August 1 and ended on September 28.
Lander predicts Vancouver might only play 50 games, which will impact other teams in the NHL’s North Division.
“A bunch of Canuck games are going to be canceled, not made up,” he said. “You cancel games against the Oilers or the Canadiens, or [other teams] who are tied to the playoffs, so their ranking system is going to be disrupted.
“The NHL has protocols in place to determine tiebreakers. I guess that will just be the best winning percentage. Everyone has played enough games at this point that you have enough sample size. reasonable to know who [the playoff teams] are.”
Even before the virus hit, Vancouver faced an uphill battle to qualify for the playoffs.
Heading into Wednesday night, the Canucks (16-18-3) followed Montreal by eight points for the final playoff spot in the North Division.