LONGUEUIL, Que. — Eighteen members of a team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada announced the breakout Wednesday, two days after they suspended in-person activities. That move came after learning of one positive test following the first weekend of regular-season play in the QMJHL.
Players and staff have been placed in isolation for 14 days. Team activities are suspended indefinitely.
The Sherbrooke Phoenix also suspended in-person activities after playing the Armada twice last weekend.
The QMJHL was the only one of three Canadian major-junior hockey leagues to open play around its traditional start date during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League have said they hope to start in December.
The Armada’s problems started Monday with the positive test along with an announcement by the Quebec government affecting Blainville-Boisbriand and the Quebec Remparts.
The government announced team sports are among the activities being barred in Quebec’s COVID-19 "red zones," which include the greater Montreal area and Quebec City. The Armada are based just under 22 miles (35 kilometres) northwest of Montreal.
"Although our sanitary and medical protocol is very strict and rigorous, we knew that COVID-19 was highly infectious and could eventually hit certain players and team staff members," QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau said in a statement as reported by the Canadian Press. "Nevertheless, we are extremely confident that the measures contained in our contingency plan, which is currently deployed, will prove to be very efficient."
The QMJHL’s schedule this season features only intra-divisional play. The six teams based in the Atlantic provinces do not enter Quebec.
"As hockey players, you want to play games, and I didn’t play a lot last year, so I wanted to play as much as I could this year," said Chicoutimi Sagueneens centre Hendrix Lapierre, who played two games with his team this past weekend before he was selected 22nd overall by the Washington Capitals in the NHL draft on Tuesday night. "I feel like it’s kind of an advantage for us to be able to play. … I’m with my teammates. We’re playing games. Yes, we’re training, but we have games, we’re together, we’re bonding."