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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
Like every aspect of life these days, the new normal for the Calgary Flames as they enter Phase 3 of the National Hockey League’s ‘Return to Play’ plan features many steps before the players actually get on the ice and start shooting pucks.
Upon each individual’s spaced out entry into Scotiabank Saddledome, their temperatures are taken. They are tested for COVID-19. They are masked. They are physically distancing, spaced apart two metres when they’re working out and in the dressing rooms. The building is cleaned before and after they leave.
It’s a stark contrast from the last time the players were all together back on March 12 when they had been preparing to host the New York Islanders when the coronavirus pandemic put the NHL — along with the whole world — on pause.
“Everything is upside down, it feels like,” said Flames forward Mikael Backlund. “I’ll probably get used to all of the testing and wearing masks and all the safety precautions once we start camp. Everyone you talk to, you ask them how they’re doing — it’s a crazy world right now.
“Everyone is affected. It one way, that’s good because everyone knows what everyone is going through but it’s definitely a strange world.”
For months, the team’s medical staff have been working on putting protocols in place for players and management to ensure they’re following NHL and Alberta Health Services regulations.
But outside of their own sanitized bubble they’ve created — which will eventually move to Edmonton and only include a total of 31 players allowed in the NHL’s ‘hub’ — Flames general manager Brad Treliving has little control of what happens.
“This is what has kept me up at night since we found out we were returning to play,” Treliving said on Sunday during a conference call ahead of training camp. “Theoretically, when you arrive at the ‘hub’ clean, you should be clean between now and then. But what we’ve learned about this virus is it’s not a dirty little secret; you don’t have to be doing something wrong to attract it. That’s not what this is about … where you are susceptible is when you leave the rink.”
The management, coaches, trainers and medical staff have tried to prepare the players with as much information as possible in order to help them make good decisions when they leave the rink. They prepare individually packaged food to grab and go and try to assist with grocery delivery so players can spend as little time as possible in public.
But he acknowledged that COVID-19 is still present in society and poses a real risk to everyone.
“As a league, you hope and you pray and it keeps you awake at night that you’re not going to have any issues,” Treliving said. “But you see the weekly reports and we’ve had cases throughout the league. You hope it’s not going to get to a point where it impacts the ability the ‘Return to Play.’ So, we take every precaution we can.”
And that includes refraining from hugs, handshakes, or high fives between teammates.
“It’s obviously been different, and I think I speak for everyone, regardless of what your job or career is,” said Flames forward Milan Lucic. “The weirdest thing for me is when you meet someone or see someone you haven’t seen in a long time, I’ve always been taught to shake someone’s hand. That’s your first impression, you look them in the eye and all that type of stuff. Now it’s like, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ Even if it’s a friend or buddy you haven’t seen in a while, or a family member. You expect to go in for the hug. You’re in between, not knowing what to do. That’s been strange for me, personally.”
Yet the approach is necessary and Lucic added he’ll do whatever it takes if it means the Flames can have a shot at the 2020 Stanley Cup.
If he has to wash his hands 15 times a day and wear a mask to and from the rink, so be it.
“For me personally, I really want this (Return to Play) to happen so I don’t mind being conscious of it all so that we can, as a league, keep moving forward in the right direction,” he said.
Treliving said, as of Monday, the entire team and staff are in full lock-down mode.
“We’re not living in a normal world once we get into training camp,” he said. “There’s a price to pay to have success, there’s a price to pay for the betterment of the group. You just have to use common sense and limit outside (contact) because you just don’t know. You don’t have to be dancing on the table at a nightclub at 4 a.m. to get this disease. That’s not what it’s about, you just have to be smart. So, we’ve repeated this theme from the get-go and it’s certainly not a whole lot different than a lot of us have been living.
“You try to do it because when you’re getting close to playing, you get it in your group and it becomes an issue.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020