After having three games postponed due to COVID-19 issues this week, the Calgary Flames’ placed seven players (including star goaltender Jacob Markstrom and left-wing Johnny Gaudreau), head coach Darryl Sutter and two assistant coaches, and seven support staff members in COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday.
Centers Byron Froese, Trevor Lewis, and Tyler Pitlick in addition to defensemen Rasmus Andersson and Erik Gudbranson were also added on Wednesday.
This comes a day after left-wing Milan Lucic, center Sean Monahan, and defenseman Noah Hanifin were placed on COVID-19 protocol and two after center Elias Lindholm, left-wing Andrew Mangiapane, center Brad Richardson, center Adam Ruzicka, and defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev entered. 17 members of the Flames’ organization in total are on COVID-19 protocol.
On Monday, the NHL postponed the Flames’ games at the Chicago Blackhawks that night, at the Nashville Predators the next, and against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
The Flames are scheduled to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but the chances that happens becomes increasingly unlikely.
The Flames hosted the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently have six players in COVID-19 protocol, on Thursday and the Boston Bruins, who have three, on Saturday. The Hurricanes also had two games postponed this week due to COVID-19.
The team’s training facilities are closed to players for the time being.
“We’re keeping the picture small,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Tuesday, according to NHL.com. “I don’t want to make any proclamations about what’s going to happen tomorrow, never mind Saturday. We have to prepare. The lesson for all of us in this time is you take the information you have and you make the best decision you can and you move forward. So today we know what we’ve got in terms of positive tests. We know that games have been postponed until Thursday. We have to plan accordingly until we have further information.”
“Certainly there are challenges, but we’ll see. Tuesday to Saturday seems like an eternity now.”
Treliving said Flames players were tested Saturday morning ahead of their planned flight to Chicago on Sunday. When three positive tests came back by early Sunday morning, the entire team was tested again at the airport Sunday before its scheduled departure.
The flight was delayed pending results. Treliving said Calgary contemplated flying to Chicago early Monday, but the three original positive tests were confirmed and three other positive tests came back late Sunday, making postponements necessary.
“As we all learned in the past couple of years, you stay limber and nimble and prepare to pivot,” Treliving said. “We’re postponed through Thursday. That was the initial call. And obviously we monitor as things go forward here.
“We’re dealing with an imperfect … we’d all like there to be no COVID. There is, so we’ve got to deal with it. And so I don’t think that’s a problem. You deal with it. Once this thing started, you do your best to try to limit it. Once we got the results back on Sunday morning, we just felt, let’s be safe. I don’t think there’s any perfect situation or perfect way to go about it. You do the very best you can. Our medical staff and doctors do a great job to try to keep everybody safe. We’re dealing with a pandemic. There’s a lot of imperfections right now when you deal with this.”
Treliving said the players, coaches and staff members in protocol just add to the roster and logistical issues a team and general manager are always juggling.
“We’re jumping back and forth between a few sandboxes,” Treliving said. “You’ve got health and safety No. 1. So that takes precedence over everything. We’ve got a great medical team. Our people know whatever they need will be provided for them. But let’s not lose sight that everything’s a distant second to that.
“Then you’re looking at other layers here. Roster-wise and all those other things, we’re working through. We’re still early in this situation. Right now we’re postponed through Thursday but we’re looking at scenarios, as positive tests come and players become available, what does that do to our roster? We’ll have to wait and see how that works.”
“That was a cold slap,” he said. “It’s part of the world. There are ebbs and flows to it. We hadn’t really been in this kind of situation before. Other teams have. We’re in it now, so we’ve got to deal with it. Everybody gets that fatigue, right? But you can’t, you can’t slip up, let your guard down. It’s out there. You’ve got to stay diligent with it and deal with it as best you can.
“To me, it doesn’t necessarily feel like the newness, when it all came upon us in our lives two years ago. Yeah, it’s tough and it’s draining and there’s that fatigue factor but this is just part of life now. And so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things and keeping people safe and following the rules.”
The Predators announced that six players (C Mikael Granlund, C Ryan Johansen, C Matt Luff, C Michael McCarron, C Philip Tomasino, and D Ben Harpur) in addition to head coach John Hynes, assistants Dan Lambert and Todd Richards, and goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok have been placed on COVID-19 protocol.
The team is scheduled to host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
Nine games this season have been postponed due to COVID-19.
By Harrison Brown