VANCOUVER (Sportsnet) The Vancouver Canucks’ matchup Friday against the Edmonton Oilers has been postponed as the team continues to recover from its outbreak of COVID-19.
The NHL confirmed on Thursday afternoon that the Canucks’ return to play is being delayed from April 16.
“The decision to extend the period prior to the team’s resumption of play was made to provide Club staff and Players with additional time for recovery and preparation following its recent COVID outbreak,” reads the league’s statement. “The NHL made the decision with input from the League’s, NHLPA’s and Club’s medical groups.”
The NHL says additional changes are being made to the North Division schedule and a revised schedule is expected to be released by Friday.
It is unclear at this point if the Canucks’ game on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs will also be affected.
The decision comes a day after Canucks forward J.T. Miller was outspoken in his frustration with the speed of the team’s return to action after seeing at least 21 players and four members of its coach staff test positive for the novel coronavirus since March 30.
“We try to talk about the No. 1 priority is the players’ health and the families’ safety, and it’s almost impossible to achieve that with what they’ve asked us to do here on our return,” said Miller, calling a return Friday “very challenging and not very safe.”
In a statement, Canucks General Manager Jim Benning says the team staff have collaborated with the NHL, NHLPA and local health authorities on a daily basis.
“I would like to thank our players, our upcoming opponents, and everyone involved at the NHL and NHLPA for their input, guidance and understanding through this process. Above all else the health and safety of players, staff and families remains the priority,” he said in the statement.
Benning confirmed that some players are not yet ready to return to play.
“Before every player resumes training, a full medical evaluation is carried out, consistent with return to play NHL COVID Protocols. As of today, certain players have passed evaluation however many are not yet cleared and extra recovery time is required. Our medical staff are confident the recovery process for those players will be aided by an additional couple of days.” he added.
The Canucks practiced Thursday for the first time since they were hit by the outbreak and haven’t played since March 24. The on-ice session was originally open to media, but the Canucks tweeted it was a “closed practice” two hours before the session was set to begin.
Schedule update: Today's practice, originally scheduled open to media, is now a closed practice. Media availability details TBC.
— Canucks PR (@CanucksPR) April 15, 2021
The team was slated to meet with medical groups from the NHL and NHLPA to discuss health evaluations and whether any schedule changes were necessary.
The NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol list still had three Canucks on it Thursday, including defenceman Nate Schmidt and forwards Nils Hoglander and Jake Virtanen.
A player on the protocol list has not necessarily tested positive. Players who are in self-isolation after travelling or who’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive, for example, are also on the list.