Canadiens’ Brett Kulak says he tested positive for COVID-19

Montreal Canadiens Brett Kulak delves deep into his COVID-19 experience, including the symptoms he felt, his emotions right after getting his positive test results, and whether he has any lingering effects from it.

BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens defenceman Brett Kulak confirmed on Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and suffered various symptoms that made it impossible for him to participate in Phase 3 training camp before this past Wednesday.

"The reason I was out of training camp is I came into the city on the second of July and over the weekend was isolated in the hotel, and my first test came back negative on Monday but I was kind of having some kind of COVID-like symptoms," the 26-year-old said. "So I figured it was best I just get my Monday test and then go back to the hotel and don’t join the guys at the rink, and sure enough that one ended up becoming positive. And I did a confirmation test at a different lab, at the Montreal General Hospital, the following day on the Tuesday and that one was positive as well. So, pretty much, I started my 14-day quarantine. I kind of had seven, eight days of symptoms that kind of lingered on a little bit. I got over it and I’m feeling back to normal."

Kulak, who had seven assists in 56 games for the Canadiens this season, said it was a little shocking to test positive and described his symptoms as mild.

"You just don’t know how it will affect you and how symptoms kind of develop and increase," the Edmonton native said. "Some guys shake it off in a day or two and sometimes it can linger on and it can get, obviously, really severe. So, had a little bit of fear of that. But, just as the days went on, I didn’t find too much progression.

"I think my first couple of days were the worst. Waking up I had just pressure in my head, a little kind of dull headache all day. I was trying, because I had my first negative test, I was just trying to do exercise in my hotel room, some body weight stuff, and I could tell I just didn’t have the energy for it that I should have for kind of the difficulty of stuff I was doing. It was affecting my breathing a little bit, so I was pretty certain I had it. And when the test came positive, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to me. There was just a little bit of concern — hopefully the symptoms don’t progress to something too severe. But as it went on I was in talks with the team and the medical staff every day and they were super good with me."

Kulak said symptoms tapered and that he’s been feeling better and better since first returning to the ice for an isolated skating session with Xavier Ouellet, who also tested positive for coronavirus at the onset of Canadiens camp.

He joined main practice on Thursday and said that getting up to speed with the rest of his teammates will require some repetition.

"Once you test positive and that, you’re pretty much shut down from any physical activity," Kulak said. "And I’m in my room the whole time. So I did, fortunately at the start, get moved to a condo from my hotel, so I had a kitchen and they had the fridge pre-stocked with some food. So they looked after me pretty well that way, so it was nice just to cook some meals. And my little condo had a little balcony so I could get some fresh air and stuff like that. So that was pretty huge for me.

"It was nice — all the guys, I kept in daily contact with all my teammates. So it was good like that. They filled me in on what was going on day-to-day in the training camp when I was missing out. When I got back, I just hadn’t lifted weights or, obviously, been on the ice participating in drills, moving the puck around. And you’ve got 29 other guys flying around the ice with you, so you just kind of gotta re-adjust to that. But honestly, I didn’t feel … I feel pretty much back to totally normal. Had a good skate (Friday) and I think another good one tomorrow and there’s no reason why I don’t think I’ll feel 100 per cent."

Kulak also said he went through extensive contact tracing to try to source where he might have contracted the virus from.

"I had a lengthy phone call with Quebec Health kind of during my quarantine period and they traced back pretty much every step of my life." Kulak said. "I think it goes back to like June 22. So we did a little bit of contact tracing and there was one other guy who I skated with who had tested positive prior to me — about a week or so before I did. So, originally, maybe we thought I picked it up from him, but there was no one else at the skate who had symptoms or tested positive.

"We were keeping our distance on the ice and stuff like that, so I thought there was a pretty slim chance I would’ve picked it up from him. But we traced my steps back day-to-day and everyone I was surrounded by, and I know I had to give out lots of contact information and phone numbers and I think they were doing their jobs and calling around everyone I was around and making sure they were feeling good and checking in on them and seeing what they were up to."

With all that settled, Kulak is just excited to be back with his teammates, and he’s doing all he can to prove he can be relied on in Montreal’s upcoming Stanley Cup Qualifier against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I think I’m pretty close to being back to my level of play where I’m going to be effective in the games, and I feel good," Kulak said.

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