The Vancouver Canucks team physician said the player who first contracted COVID-19 and then brought it into the team acted within NHL and provincial health protocols.
“There’s no culprit here other than the COVID virus itself,” said Dr. Jim Bovard.
“We know that the individual had gone to a place within the guidelines, and that place subsequently was discovered to have cases of COVID and that’s how it got into our organization.”
To date, 21 Canucks players and four staff members have tested positive for a variant of the virus, although which variant is still being determined by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
Six Canucks games have been postponed so far.
The Canucks have confirmed that the outbreak began with a single, unnamed individual on the team who was infected in a community setting that has since been closed for virus transmission.
Forward Adam Gaudette was the first Canuck to test positive for COVID-19 on March 30.
He was pulled off the ice mid-practice, leading to questions about why players were able to participate in group training where they cannot physically distance or wear a face mask when results of their daily COVID tests had not been finalized.
According to Bovard, the Canucks were following protocols set by the NHL which have been in force since June 2020.
He said the severity of the cases on the team has been manageable, and that no one has been hospitalized to date.
“We’re following the curve like every other curve where we had a peak in cases … and it’s starting to slow down. So we’re moving away from the new infection phase, to dealing with the infection phase, to starting with recovery.”
Thursday was the first time in over a week with no new Canucks’ COVID cases announced, although General Manager Jim Benning said family members were still falling ill.
The Canucks have played 37 of their 56-game schedule. Benning said the team and the NHL have every intention of Vancouver finishing the regular season once public health gives the green light for players to return to work.
He said the team, the NHL and the NHL Players Association would be meeting later Friday to talk about next steps.
“They’re going to discuss today about an opportunity to open up facilities again to get our players back skating and, from there, decide when to start playing games again,” said Benning.
Heading into Friday’s games the Canucks (16-18-3) trail Montreal by eight points for the final playoff spot.
Bovard said the COVID-19 outbreak has been hard on the team and its families.
“These players have gone from being hockey players — some of the most resilient, tough, well balanced people on the planet — to suddenly fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, and it takes on a whole different element for them.”