Shortly after the book closed on the Red Deer Rebels sixth straight loss Monday night, GM/head coach Brent Sutter’s concerns shifted to a matter that goes well beyond wins and losses.
Sutter spoke about his son Brandon, who plays for the Vancouver Canucks and has tested positive for COVID-19. Seventeen of the Canucks 22 players are in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Brandon’s in isolation, while his wife is pregnant and they also have a two and three-year-old.
“He’s feeling a little better. Obviously, there’s a huge concern there, not just with the players but their family members too. There’s been family members that have tested positive that have been sick with it too,” Brent said.
Multiple reports have said the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil could be involved in the Canucks’ outbreak.
The Canucks and the league have not commented publicly on COVID-19 test results since the team confirmed Adam Gaudette’s positive test last week.
“Just hopefully over time, you just pray that it’s not going to have an impact going forward and getting over this. That’s the unknown with this is variant. From what I’m being told, it is the variant causing this problem – the Brazilan variant,” Brent said.
“It’s knocked some guys pretty hard. Right now, you just want everyone to get healthy again and get back to some normalcy.”
The issue for the Canucks started last Tuesday when one player tested positive and by Friday, four others hit the NHL protocol list. By Saturday, seven more players were added to the COVID-19 list, including Brandon. An additional two players were added to the list Sunday.
The list also has players who have not necessarily tested positive — but who need to self-isolate for being a close contact. A player who tests positive must self-isolate for 10 days.
Although Brandon is an adult and has a young family of his own, Brent said it’s incredibly difficult not to be able to support his son and family in person as they battle the virus.
“Right now, hockey is the least of these guys’ worries. They’re sick too and they’re concerned about their families. You’ve got guys whose wives are pregnant, young kids,” Brent said.
“It’s something that has been hard on everyone there and hard on everyone on the outside that can’t do anything to help out with. Just something you have to weather through and hopefully get through and everyone can get back to being healthy.”
The NHL has not determined when the Cancuks will be able to return to the ice.
-With files from The Canadian Press