BROSSARD, Que. – It’s the dreaded COVID-19 test curveball, coming down the pike at the least opportune moment for Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme.
Ducharme, who was scheduled to speak with media via Zoom at 10:15 a.m. ET ahead of Friday’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinal with the Vegas Golden Knights, was abruptly sent home to isolate after irregularities were found in his morning test results. He will be tested again later Friday and, if cleared, will be behind the bench at the Bell Centre when the game gets underway at 8 p.m. ET
The 48-year-old coach, along with all Canadiens personnel who opted for it, received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on June 9, and the entire team, over its six-day trip to Vegas for Games 1 and 2, was strictly kept to the confines of their hotel and T-Mobile Arena.
The Canadiens, like all other teams in the NHL, have been tested every day since the start of training camp back in January — a policy that hasn’t changed, even with the recent easing of restrictions in Canada and the United States. Family members who live with them have been tested twice per week, as well.
No further clarity was provided by the Canadiens on which member of Ducharme’s staff would take over for him should his afternoon test come back positive.
Alex Burrows was promoted to assistant coach on Feb. 24, replacing Kirk Muller on the same day Ducharme took over for Claude Julien as coach, but he has never served as a head coach at the professional level. He did, however, run the team’s morning skate Friday.
Luke Richardson, who coaches Montreal’s defence, was the head coach of the AHL’s Binghamton Senators from 2012-16 and would be the other option, with director of goaltending Sean Burke joining the bench.
Friday’s development is not the first of its kind.
On June 10, Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar missed the morning skate ahead of Game 6 of his team’s second-round series against the Golden Knights after irregularities were found in his test results. He was cleared to coach four hours before puck drop.
Ducharme, a native of Joliette, Que., who has coached the Canadiens to a 9-4 record in these playoffs, will hope for the same result on Friday.
The rest of the Canadiens players and staff were all accounted for at the team’s morning skate and should be available for the game pending test results, which must be reported to the NHL no later than 5 p.m. local time.