With five players (Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook, Jaccob Slavin, Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele) still on the NHL’s COVID protocol list, the Hurricanes’ training facilities remain closed, and the team’s games through Saturday, Jan. 23 are postponed.
The team is trying to deal with it as best it can in terms of staying in shape, being ready to play when possible and figuring out what the changes to the schedule might look like. General manager Don Waddell and head coach Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom Thursday morning about the situation, here’s some highlights and updates from that availability:
On when the team could play again and open its facilities: Right now it’s day to day. Every night, there’s a 6 or 7 o’clock call with our medical directors and the league’s medical directors. It’s discussed on a nightly basis. I envision it being closed for the next day or so, but we’re hoping that by the time we get here toward the weekend, that we can start doing some things. Maybe it won’t be a full team, but start doing some things and ramping back up to full practice and getting ready to play next week.
On possibly cancelling games or pushing the playoffs back: There’s no talk at all about cancelling games. Everything’s been postponed. I’ve been on the call this morning with the NHL as far as the schedule makers trying to see where we can fit games in. It’s not going to be ideal, but we’re all in the same situation that we’re trying to get through the season. So as we sit here right now, the games that we’ve missed, we definitely have places that we can put them in. We’re going to shift around schedules depending on how everything shakes out this week. I think the goal for the NHL and for all of us to try to [make up the games.]
We all know we’re going to go through some periods where you might have to play five games in seven nights. In a normal season, we’re playing 2.4 plays, and this year we’re playing about 2.10. It wasn’t crazy compared to a regular season but it’s going to get crazier now as we try to fit in games. But I think they’re all doable. We just don’t know what else is going to happen. Hopefully we don’t have too many more [postponements] not only from us but it’s all been in our division so far, all the games cancelled. But so far we’ve been able to find places for the games that we have cancelled.
On conversations with the league about what happened with the Hurricanes’ COVID issues: We have a contact tracer, a person that’s identified to do anytime there’s any kind of COVID notice, they do a contact tracing to see where players have been, how much time they spent with players, and we’ve got reports to fill out. As Rod said, we’ve done everything. That locker room’s been wearing masks, they’ve been doing everything.
The one thing we can’t control is on the ice when guys are playing. But other times than that, we followed all the protocol. When we’re on the road, the dinners, you’re at an 8-foot table with three people max at a table. Most of the time it’s only two because people are staggered coming and going. You have protocols that you have to follow and you have follow up to do with the league. Everything that has happened to our team, we’ve filed all the paper work and it hasn’t been an issue from our end.
On guidance from the NHL on postponing games: I guarantee it wasn’t about the quality of players, the league’s not going to care about who’s out from our end. We know that the games that we’re cancelling fit into a really tight schedule. It has nothing to do with the quality of players. The concern is when you have that many players at one time that are either positive or in the contact tracing, the fear is that it could come through the locker room, and that’s why the league made a decision with our doctors, the league doctors, that it was better to take these days and just shut it down. Let’s get it out of the locker room so we can resume our schedule here in the near future.
On the NHL possibly implementing rapid testing: We have it in our building now. We just got the machines the other day. The whole plan was to test officials and off-ice personnel people when they come in the building. We will have to use it when we come out of this quarantine. As far as long term, what the plan is for the NHL, they haven’t said this is something we’re going to do, but I know the machines have been installed. We have them now in PNC Arena and we’ll see what protocols the league sets up going forward.
On if there’s any additional steps that should be taken: Rod and I have talked about this thing until we’re blue in the face with our trainer and everything else. We’ve actually gone as far as we have these sanitizing guns that we take on the road. We spare no expense and we don’t think we’ve overlooked anything to date. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do things better, you always look for other options.
But we’ve taken all the safeguards, spreading players out in the locker room. If you came out in training camp, we were using our video room as a second locker room just so we didn’t have more than 10 guys in the room together. I think we’ve done everything we possibly can do. We see what’s going on in our country and our world, sometimes you just control it. So the best thing now is we’ve got to try to figure out how to get it out of the locker room and continue to look at avenues to keep it safe for our players.
On difficulties working with NC State on rescheduling games: Not at all, because obviously the building has no other events going on. So we have lots of open days for both of us to figure out who can play which nights. If it was a year where you had a bunch of other events going on in the building, that would be a different issue. But when you have seven nights and we’re going to play a couple nights and they’re going to play a couple nights possibly in a week, we definitely have enough open dates for everybody.
On if he believes the COVID spread came on the ice: We don’t know. You just look at every avenue. The players on the ice are sweating and doing their thing but they’re not together for the time periods that the CDC [recommends], so I’ve become much smarter on protocols in the last 24 hours, but if we can figure out where it’s coming from, I think there’d be a lot of sports teams that’d be pretty happy about that. We look at every angle. It’s one of the things that we’ve talked about internally and externally with the league. I wish I had a better answer for you, but we really don’t know.
On possibly playing three games in three days: I’m never going to say that we won’t play, because it might be out of our control, but the conversations that I had with the league today, they want to avoid threes in threes with everybody. So we’re not talking about any three games in three nights at this point. We’ll see how things change or if anything else changes along the way, but I think it’s the league’s strong opinion, and I think most teams would agree that three in three puts your players at risk for more injuries. It’s a lot of wear and tear on your body to be playing that way. I think right now we’re avoiding it and I think the league’s going to do everything they can to avoid it.
On how far behind this will leave the team: That’s kind of the great unknown. I don’t think anybody really knows. I think we were just kind of getting rolling, and obviously depending on how long we’re out for and not able to practice kind of determines all that. We’re going to try to do the best we can. I told the guys as we just got off a Zoom meeting, we’re business as usual as far as today we had a practice but it was on Zoom. We got that done, and now they’ve got to figure out a way to stay in shape on their own. Bill Burniston’s been out traveling around dropping bikes off. We’re making the best of the situation.
On how he feels about the NHL’s handling of COVID protocols: I think they’ve done the best they can. I think everybody has, to be quite honest. There’s so much unknown. I think we’ve done all the protocols. We’ve tried. I think we’ve done a great job. Obviously it didn’t matter. It got into our room. I think we’re just trying as best as we can to follow everything that the people that know what we’re talking about, what they’re telling us. We’re listening. … I think we’ve done the best we can and I think the league has done the best they can.
On Teuvo Teravainen’s non-COVID injury Monday: I think that was just an in-game that he didn’t feel good about. When you play in so many games or you’re preparing like you’re going to play so many games, you just don’t want to push guys through stuff that could really take them out for a long time. So I think we always err, right now, especially, with so many games stacked up, if a guy has something, you kind of err on ‘OK, well let’s just take it easy here and see if we can get through it.’
On frustration doing everything right and still having COVID issues and ramping back up: I don’t know if frustrated is the right word. We’re doing this from home. It’s not ideal. We all understood that. I think we all understood that there was a chance that something like this was going to happen. You just look at all the other sports, it’s rather to find a team that it didn’t affect in some way or another. So it’s not really about was it going to happen, it’s how you deal with it.
That’s really what we’re going to find out. How we handle this coming out, are we going to be in tip-top shape? Probably not. We’re going to have to figure out different ways to make up for the time we’ve lost. We’ll find out. It’s great. It really just comes down to doing it right as best you can, and that’s really what we’ve kind of always preached anyway. We’ll see how this works out. I believe in the group. I think we can find a way to get through this. I think we’ll be stronger in a lot of ways. This isn’t ideal for anybody. We’ve got guys sitting in Nashville in a hotel room right now that can’t leave their room. It’s brutal. I feel for these guys. But at the end of the day, we’re still pretty lucky to be able to talk about the fact that we’re playing a game. So I think that will win out in the end. I believe in this group. I don’t think we’ll be too adversely affected by this.