Canadian junior team hopefuls were finally allowed to leave their hotel rooms on Tuesday after ending their 14-day quarantine in Red Deer, Alta.
But it wasn’t exactly a joyous occasion for five players who had their dreams dashed after being released from the selection camp by Hockey Canada.
Brandon’s Daemon Hunt of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors and the Brandon Wheat Kings‘ Ridly Greig were among the players let go, but it wasn’t a hockey-based decision. While the players didn’t necessarily come down with COVID-19, Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond would only say the five are unfit to continue, based on the return-to-play protocols.
“We’re not going to get into details in regards to unfit to play,” Salmond said. “But I can tell you that the return-to-play protocol is 17 days — 17 days post-positive (test) or exposure.
“I can also tell you a little more detail, that not all five of those players tested positive within our camp. There was a few that came to camp who had a previous test. And so given those circumstances, given our screening process, medically it was determined that they are unfit to play, and therefore weren’t able to meet our return-to-play protocols.”
The other players released were defencemen Matthew Robertson and Mason Millman, along with forward Xavier Simoneau.
“If you can imagine how difficult that would be,” says Salmond. “To go through 14 days of quarantine and then have a call that I made to them and their parents yesterday informing them, based on our return-to-play protocols, they would not be able to continue at camp.”
Winnipeg’s Seth Jarvis, Jets draft pick Cole Perfetti, Wheat Kings defenceman Braden Schneider and Winnipeg Ice captain Peyton Krebs are all among the 41 players still in the running to make Canada’s 25-man roster.
They are scheduled to play intra-squad games on Wednesday and Thursday. They will then whittle down their roster before entering the world junior bubble on Sunday.
The Canadian juniors are certainly not the only country dealing with COVID-19, with junior teams from Germany and Sweden also dealing with positive tests.
Winnipeg Ice forward Nino Kinder also won’t be suiting up for his home country. According to the German Ice Hockey Federation, the 19-year-old Kinder and teammate Lukas Reichel have both tested positive for the coronavirus and won’t be accompanying the team to Canada for the tourney.
Kinder scored 11 goals and 10 assists in 49 games for the Ice last season, but stayed in Germany with Eisbaren Berlin during the pandemic.
The annual junior tournament begins on Christmas Day. Canada’s first game is on Boxing Day against Germany.