VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – After suffering through the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL this season, the Vancouver Canucks’ team doctor says the players are into the recovery phase. But the team won’t be getting back on the ice until they get the green light from health officials.
An outbreak ripped through the team over the past week and a half, with 25 people — 21 players and four coaching staff — testing positive, and one additional player being considered a close contact.
Dr. Jim Bovard, who is the team’s physician, says the outbreak results in the usual variety of symptoms. With the end of the outbreak hopefully in sight, Bovard says they are continuing to follow advice from public health.
“They’ve been looking at us very carefully and working with our organization, guiding us in terms of when we can come back. That’s an evolving process. We will be working with them … and re-open and restart work only when they give us the clearance to do so.”
Dr. Jim Bovard: We've had a whole range of what I've seen in COVID throughout my practice in the last year. Nothing unusual. Nothing different. There's been nobody who's needed to be hospitalized. #Canucks
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) April 9, 2021
He says the players have been through a lot in the past week, but hopefully the worst is behind them.
“We’re moving away from the new infection phase into the ‘dealing with the infection’ phase, and then starting into the recovery. So, happily, we’re getting more towards that stage of this wave within our organization,” Bovard said.
Bovard is also throwing cold water on any suggestion that anyone broke protocol.
“We know that the individual had gone to a place within the guidelines. That place subsequently was discovered to have cases of COVID. That’s how it got into our organization. There’s no culprit here, other than [COVID] itself,” he said.
No one within the organization has required hospitalization.
Even so, a local family physician says this is a wake-up call for people in their 20s and 30s.
“This is a reflection of what’s happening in the community right now … that COVID is still very alive in our community and it’s still very virulent, for lack of a better term” Dr. Birinder Narang said. “Anyone is at risk right now, and if a group of elite athletes can pick it up, then all of us are susceptible, no matter what our age or risk factors.”
Narang says he’s also worried about the Canucks hitting the ice again too soon because it could take several weeks for some players to fully recover. He compares what’s happening now to coming back too soon after suffering a concussion.
“We have learned so much more about how a graduated return [after a concussion] is more beneficial and if you push them too fast, symptoms can worsen and linger. While this is not the same, we have been seeing some parallels with post-concussion-type injuries as they return and I think that’s just something that we need to be mindful of,” he said.
He worries about players coming back too soon.
"They have a lot of external pressures to perform and if you push them back, there's a risk themselves –individually– of over-training before they're ready and the analogy I would (use) is when people return after concussions…"
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) April 9, 2021
Narang points out the confirmation of the number of players and staff infected in this outbreak was only confirmed this week.
“Best-case scenario, they’re all better by next week and they can start training and see how they are,” he said. “But we can’t expect that will happen for every player right now. The types of symptoms that we’re seeing are brain fog, breathlessness, fatigue, headaches. You are not able to exercise in the capacity you were before, so I think it’s a bit premature to predict a quick return to ice.”
Canucks General Manager Jim Benning says there’s hope the team can complete their entire 56-game schedule.
Benning says the players are “mostly on the other side” of the illness now, though some have family members who are still sick.
VAN team physician Dr. Jim Brovard: "We know the individual had gone to a place within the guidelines. That place was subsequently found to have cases of COVID… we've made it clear within our group there's no culprit here aside form the (virus) itself."
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 9, 2021
Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman reported this week that the team and league had been looking at next weekend’s two-game series with Toronto as the earliest possible target to return to play.
With files from The Canadian Press