After a Western Hockey League mandated quarantine period of 14 days, the Kelowna Rockets stepped onto the ice at Prospera Place Wednesday morning for a light skate.
On March 30, a member of the team’s hockey staff tested positive for the coronavirus and the WHL announced a suspension of all team activities for the Rockets.
The shutdown resulted in the postponement of the Tuesday, March 30, game at Prospera Place against the Kamloops Blazers.
On March 31, after six more positive COVID-19 tests within the Rocket’s team cohort, the WHL revealed that the Rocket’s suspension of team activity would last for 14 days.
During the 14-day period of self-isolation, another member of the team cohort also tested positive for the virus, bringing total number of COVID positive cases to eight.
But because the case occurred during the team’s quarantine period it does not impact the start date of the franchise’s 14-day isolation period.
“What’s crazy is how it affects everybody differently, that’s the scariest aspect,” Kelowna Rockets head coach Kris Mallette told Global News.
‘I was fortunate that for me it was headaches, aches and a cough but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t manageable without taking some sort of medication,” Mallette added.
“It’s crazy, I mean, I would’ve expected this to never get in our bubble at all,” said Kelowna Rocket Dillon Hamaliuk.
“I can’t believe how (fast) it spread,” Hamaliuk added.
The veteran Rocket forward says he did his best to stay in shape during the self-isolation period as he awaited a return to action.
“Obviously, it was tough for sure but we were able to manage.”
“We had at-home workouts, we got weights that were given to us, so it was good that we were able to keep busy,” Hamaliuk explained.
Bruce Hamilton, the Kelowna Rockets’ general manager, is extremely happy that the team is now completely COVID-19 free. But, he worries about how the absence from practice and gameplay will affect the team during this shortened 24-game season.
‘From a development side of things, this has really set us back,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton hopes that the Rockets will still get 16 games in this season, despite having played only two games and postponing eight of the 24-game abbreviated B.C. division COVID-19 season.
He’s also sending out a personal thanks to all the Rockets’ billets who have helped the players through this extremely challenging time away from home.
“We are so thankful to them and I know the players are,” Hamilton said.
‘This is where I believe that being in billets, for their mental health, is a lot better than being cooped up in a hotel.”
The Rockets are scheduled to return to gameplay on Saturday, April 17 when they take on the Prince George Cougars at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.