VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The N.H.L.’s Covid-19 protocols have sidelined more than half of the Vancouver Canucks, as well as one member of the coaching staff, an extraordinary impact of the coronavirus on a sports team.
The Canucks have not played a game in nearly two weeks. At least 16 players are on the league’s protocol list after testing positive, including forward Marc Michaelis and defenseman Jalen Chatfield, who were added on Sunday. An N.H.L. roster is typically 23 players. The protocol list is based on testing and contact tracing.
The players have reported symptoms including fever, fatigue and mild headaches, as reported by The Vancouver Province. Members of the players’ immediate families and team staff have also been affected, according to reports, and it is believed that they contracted the Brazilian P.1 variant of Covid-19, a first in the N.H.L.
“Finally made it to the couch after two days,” one Canucks player told a local journalist.
Four games have already been postponed with more expected. The Canucks, who last played on March 24 in a home loss against the Jets, are prohibited from practicing until April 6 at the earliest and are restricted from playing games until April 8, when they are scheduled to play the Flames on the road. At press time, that game has not been canceled.
On Sunday, Jim Benning, the Canucks general manager, released a statement expressing gratitude for the well wishes from fans as well as acknowledging the organizations that have provided medical support to the club. “We hope for a return to full health as soon as possible,” the statement read. “Our focus continues to be the health of everyone involved.”
The first case of the team outbreak occurred on March 30, after forward Adam Gaudette was sent home from practice after testing positive. According to The Province other players on the list include Jayce Hawryluk, Bo Horvat, Tyler Motte, Brandon Sutter, Tyler Myers, Thatcher Demko, Alex Edler, Quinn Hughes, Zack MacEwen, Antoine Roussel, Braden Holtby, Adam Gaudette, Travis Hamonic and Travis Boyd.
Boyd, whom the Canucks claimed off waivers from the Maple Leafs on March 22, was set to make his debut with the team on March 31. Getting “another opportunity with Vancouver was something he was really excited about,” Boyd’s agent, Ben Hankinson, said in an interview. “But more importantly probably the bigger picture is his health, everyone else’s health, the team’s health.”
Each player will be required to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.
In British Columbia, as in other parts of Canada, Covid-19 cases have been surging in recent weeks. On Saturday, the province announced 1,072 new cases, a single-day record. There were also 871 variant cases of the virus recorded in B.C. over the past week.
Canada as a whole has been slower to vaccinate its population in comparison to the United States because of a shortage of doses.
“We are seeing increased transmission in B.C.,” Caroline Colijn, a Covid-19 modeler at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., said in an interview. “I think that just means there is an increased risk for exposure for anyone in any workplace obviously in a setting like the Vancouver Canucks.”
She added, “I think every in-person contact workplace is going to carry some risk in the middle of a pandemic.”
As the public health concern around British Columbia grows, so does the uncertainty around the remainder of the Canucks’ season. The N.H.L. has shifted the schedule numerous times since the condensed season began on Jan. 13 to accommodate dozens of games that have been postponed because of Covid protocols.
“Does the variant aspect make it different? To some extent, yes, but only because we haven’t had to deal with it yet. But that doesn’t make it ‘worse,’ per se — just different,” the N.H.L. deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to Postmedia on Saturday.
In an email to The Canadian Press, Daly said the league expected the Canucks to be able to finish the 56-game season.
Right now, Boyd is “feeling good, but waiting, anytime something can change,” said Hankinson, who also represents Canucks forward Brock Boeser. “It seems like everyone is just sitting and waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
The Canucks are in fifth place in the seven-team North Division, made up of the N.H.L.’s Canadian teams to satisfy pandemic travel restrictions. The Maple Leafs, Oilers, Jets and Canadiens occupy the four playoff spots.
“Hockey is secondary right now,” tweeted Brendan Batchelor, the Canucks play-by-play radio announcer for Sportsnet 360. “Just hoping and praying that all the Canucks and their families can get through this frightening time. I feel for them all, and all of those who are being impacted by this brutal virus in our communities.”