Canucks' return to practice delayed after another player joins COVID Protocol list

An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The Vancouver Canucks will not return to the ice as expected Sunday after another player joined the NHL's COVID Protocol list.

As a result, the team's facilities will not open until Monday at the earliest. The decision is not expected to impact the Canucks' return to play on April 16.

Twenty-five people, including 21 players and four coaching staff, have tested positive for the virus during the Canucks' outbreak. One other player has been deemed a close contact.

General manager Jim Benning said Friday that many of the players who fell ill were feeling better.

"I think our players, for the most part, our players are on the other side of it," he said. "We still have family members that are getting sick and I think the players worry about that."

The outbreak saw seven Canucks' games postponed between March 31 and April 14.

The NHL has rescheduled those games, with Vancouver's regular season now set to end on May 16 with a visit to the Calgary Flames.

It will be a gruelling end to the Canucks' campaign, with 19 games in 30 days, including six sets of back-to-backs.

The revisions forced the NHL to once again rejig the North Division schedule, moving 13 games and changing the start times for two others.

The league initially planned to end the regular season on May 8 and said Saturday it will wait to see how the season plays out before announcing when the playoffs will begin.

"With the newly revised end date for the regular season for the North Division, it is possible that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the East, Central and West Divisions could open a few days earlier than the North Division," the league said in a statement.

Vancouver (16-18-3) has not played a game since March 24 when it lost 5-1 to the visiting Winnipeg Jets.

The COVID-19 outbreak swept through the team the following week, starting on March 30 when forward Adam Gaudette was pulled off the ice mid-practice after his daily test came back positive.

The Canucks were set to host the Flames the following night, but the game was called off shortly before puck drop after defenceman Travis Hamonic and a member of the coaching staff tested positive.

Nineteen Canucks players were listed on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol Saturday.

A player on the COVID-19 protocol list has not necessarily tested positive. Players who are in self-isolation after travelling or who've been in close contact with someone who tested positive, for example, are also on the list.

The list does not include team staff or players not on the active roster, including those on the taxi squad.

The Canucks said on Wednesday that a variant is involved in the outbreak. Full genome sequencing is being conducted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control to determine which specific variant.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada that none of the Canucks players are expected to opt-out of the remainder of the season after this virus scare.

With files from Canadian Press

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