UPDATE: The player has been identified as Jay Beagle, who is currently injured and likely would not have been available to play when the Canucks returned to action.
Original article continues below.
The Vancouver Canucks — at least the players and coaches who have evaded the team’s COVID-19 outbreak — were supposed to return to practice on Sunday in preparation for returning to game action on Friday, April 16.
Instead, Rogers Arena will be shuttered for at least one more day as yet another Canucks player has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a statement released by the NHL, the Canucks’ practice facilities “will not re-open before tomorrow at the earliest,” meaning the Canucks could still practice on Monday. The risks are apparent — if they had practiced Sunday before finding out that a player had tested positive for COVID-19, more players could have been infected, extending the Canucks’ outbreak even further.
While the Canucks had gone three days without a positive test, the new case falls within the standard incubation period of 1 to 14 days.
The first positive test came on March 30, when Adam Gaudette was pulled off the ice at practice. The team then skated together on Wednesday, March 31. If players were infected on those two days, they could see a positive test as late as Wednesday, April 14.
That means there could still be a risk of a player having COVID-19 if the Canucks re-open their practice facilities on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. While the NHL’s statement claims that it is “prudent” to close the practice facilities for one additional day, prudence would likely call for significantly more caution.
According to the NHL, the player who tested positive had not been around the team, as everyone went into isolation after March 31. In other words, they would not have passed the virus on to anyone else in the organization over the past 11 days.
With that in mind, the NHL says that this latest positive test “is not currently expected to impact the Canucks’ return to game play on April 16.”
The Canucks will be facing a daunting schedule with 19 games in 31 days, including six back-to-backs. They will be doing so with one fewer player, as they will need to isolate for at least 10 days and won’t be eligible to return until April 21 at the earliest.
TSN’s Farhan Lalji confirmed that the player concerned is on the Canucks active roster, so he will be named to the NHL’s COVID protocol list, for a total of 20 players on the list. Seven other people in the Canucks organization have also tested positive — three players on the taxi squad, three members of the coaching staff, and one support staff — as well as an unknown number of family members.
This latest announcement has many fans calling for the NHL to simply cancel the remainder of the Canucks’ season or sarcastically calling out the NHL for their seeming lack of concern for the players’ health and safety.