Hockey Canada made plans, but the Covid-19 pandemic was too elusive. And now, with two confirmed positive cases amongst the players, plus the “non-core” staffer before that, the Canadians have gone into quarantine for two weeks in Red Deer, Alberta. What follows will be the tricky part.
For their own safety, all 46 players at camp – plus coaches and other staffers – will be isolated in their own single rooms for the next 14 days and what has already been a mental grind for the teenagers will get much more difficult. According to Hockey Canada’s senior VP of national teams, however, the kids are heading in with the right attitude.
“The players have been incredible,” said Scott Salmond. “They’ve rallied around each other and the team. It was a partnership from the beginning, but even more so now.”
Once it became clear that everyone would have to isolate, a social committee was formed to figure out just how the players were going to get through two weeks on their own.
“The number of solutions from the players was overwhelming,” said coach Andre Tourigny. “I was overwhelmed by their creativity.”
From quizzes to poker to guest speakers, the players’ laptops are going to get a workout and speaking of workouts, Tourigny was hopeful that each player would get an exercise bike for their rooms, since keeping active is going to be incredibly important.
Mental health is also going to be a priority in quarantine and to that end, the kids will have an app that allows Hockey Canada to keep tabs on how they’re feeling. Should anyone need a counsellor to talk to, Salmond noted that such a professional would be made available to the players.
Waiting, truly, is going to be the hardest part of the next two weeks. Players had initially been buoyed by Tourigny’s high-energy practises, but with no ice time allowed right now, even that’s off the table. There’s also the fact Team Canada was expected to make a big round of cuts to the camp roster right before the outbreak.
Because of the quarantine, Tourigny said there is no new timeline for cuts and it’s hard to reckon whether that’s a good thing or not: would it be better to know you’re cut and have to stay in a hotel room for two weeks anyway?
As for the exhibition games against USports teams, those are obviously up in the air too.
“We don’t know if we can have games,” Tourigny said. “Do we even want to have (exhibition) games at this point?”
The big question now is what this means for the tournament itself. Dean McIntosh is the VP of events and properties for Hockey Canada and he noted that the protocols set up for the nine other teams coming into the country will be a lot more strict than the protocols for Canada’s players. For example, the Canadian kids flew commercial to Red Deer, while the other nine teams will fly charter to Edmonton – but only after testing and quarantining for seven days in their home nation. Upon arriving in Edmonton, the teams will be tested and quarantined in single rooms for five days, while officials in the Edmonton bubble will have a tracking app so they know where every person in the bubble is at all times.
So is it safe to even have the tournament at this point?
“As of today,” McIntosh said, “that is our position.”
As for the staffer who tested positive in Red Deer, Salmond said that person was tested three times before the virus was detected (it can take up to two weeks to reveal itself). So in retrospect, the only thing Hockey Canada could have done differently was if everyone had quarantined for two weeks upon arrival – and that would have been its own grind.
In the meantime, Team Canada will have to do everything they can to stay physically and mentally sharp. Luckily, they have a bench boss who excels at such feats, even if Tourigny pointedly noted that it was impossible to say what the outcome will be in such an unprecedented situation. But he did remain positive about his kids and their resiliency.
“Everywhere around the world there is adversity,” Tourigny said. “It’s about how you deal with it. You see players miss a whole year due to injury and come back, so we can do it.”