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Jake Virtanen tests positive for COVID-19, now 18 Canucks on NHL's COVID protocol list

Only five players from the Canucks' active roster have not tested positive for COVID-19.
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Jake Virtanen is the latest member of the Vancouver Canucks to test positive for COVID-19. photo: Dan Toulgoet

At this point, it's much easier to list the players on the Vancouver Canucks roster who haven't tested positive for COVID-19. There are five left from the active roster — Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, Nate Schmidt, and Jordie Benn — after Jake Virtanen was added to the NHL's COVID protocol list on Tuesday.

Virtanen's addition to the list is significant in that he did not attend the Tuesday practice when Adam Gaudette received the Canucks' first positive test and was pulled from the ice. He stayed home from the practice with an illness that was evidently unrelated to COVID-19.

The next day, however, Virtanen was back on the ice for Wednesday's morning skate. It is possible that he wasn't exposed until that skate, making the decision to hold that skate without further test results seem even more foolhardy. The NHL's COVID protocol, which the Canucks followed to the letter, did not prevent the team from taking the ice despite Gaudette's positive test. 

As more information comes in, it seems clear that the spread of COVID-19 occurred on the ice for the Canucks. All of the positive tests have come from players who were on the ice for either Tuesday's practice or Wednesday's skate, including the two taxi squad members suspected of testing positive and the coaching staff. Reports indicate that no other training staff, who would not have been on the ice with the maskless players, have tested positive.

While no official announcement has yet been made, the Canucks' games against the Calgary Flames on April 8 and 10 show as postponed on the schedule on the Canucks' website and a game between the Edmonton Oilers and Flames has been rescheduled for April 10. 

The NHL is intent on the Canucks completing their full 56-game schedule, but doing so could involve the Canucks playing a ramshackle lineup of taxi squad members, AHL call-ups, and the few asymptomatic players who are cleared to return to action after isolating for 10 days. It could also push back the start of the playoffs for the North Division.

While there has been speculation that players might opt out of the remainder of the season, NHL deputy commissioner said in an email to PITB that is "not anything that’s been discussed at this point."

There is a provision in the NHL's return-to-play agreement, however, that would allow a player to opt out if a family member is at a heightened risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.