The NHL is going through a tough stretch with 40 players listed as unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols, and Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill believes his players picked up the virus from an opponent during a game.
The outbreak hit the Red Wings after their season-opening series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 14-16. By Jan. 18, Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne tested positive, and three days later, three more players were idled. All since have been cleared, with Filip Zadina coming off the list on Thursday.
“Carolina had guys that ultimately played with COVID,” Blashill said. “That’s just the reality of the testing being delayed. I’m quite certain that’s where our guys got it. It’s really hard to avoid that.
“But our guys got it and then it didn’t spread within our team any more than that. So I think our medical staff did an excellent job. We’ve enforced the protocol that’s been in place to make sure we mitigate any further spreading. Our staff and our players did a really good job of that. You have to do it the best you can.”
NHL COVID-19 ISSUES: What we know as 26 games have been postponed
The NHL revised its virus protocols Thursday in response to the surge, mandating the removal of glass panels behind benches to allow for better air flow. Players and coaches are not allowed at arenas until 1 hour, 45 minutes before the game unless they are getting treatment. All meetings must be virtual.
The Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche had to shut down after playing teams (the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild, respectively) that ended up with COVID-19 issues.
Team personnel undergo daily PCR tests, which are more reliable than rapid daily tests — but results can take 24 hours.
“The problem in ice hockey is we play in a rink where the humidity is dry and the air is cool, and my understanding, with the research I’ve done, is that potentially lets the virus sit right there in the air, and it doesn’t dissipate,” Blashill said. “So when one team has it and you play a game, it’s hard.
“We are in this situation we are in. We have to do the best we can. The fact games are getting postponed is unfortunate, but from our perspective, we just have to keep doing things the best we can.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NHL COVID issues: Jeff Blashill thinks Red Wings got virus in game