The Vancouver Canucks haven't competed since losing to the Winnipeg Jets on March 24 due to the worst COVID-19 outbreak, to date, of the NHL season that included at least 25 people testing positive for the coronavirus and kept players off team ice until earlier this week.
Details of infections remain hazy, but previous reports said many players were symptomatic and that at least one required an IV at his home even though none were hospitalized. Despite the unplanned break and understandable concerns about fitness levels, Vancouver is set to resume its season Friday versus the Edmonton Oilers and play 19 matchups in 31 days to complete the 56-game schedule.
Forward J.T. Miller told reporters on Wednesday he thinks he and his teammates are being rushed back and that it's "dangerous" to risk the health and safety of the players. "What we're being asked to do is not going to be too safe, if you're asking me," he said, per Emily Kaplan of ESPN.
"It's kind of frustrating, if I'm being honest with you. We try to talk about the No. 1 priority being the players' health and their families' safety, and it's almost impossible to do with what they've asked us to do here on our return."
Miller was one of the lucky Vancouver players who tested negative over the past several weeks, but some of his teammates are dealing with typical yet concerning lingering effects from their virus bouts.
"I hope people don't take this the wrong way. I'm a super competitive guy," Miller added. "But this isn't about hockey for our team. This is about the health and safety of our players, their family and their children. This isn't about making the playoffs."
The all-Canadian NHL North division will now finish its regular season on May 16 rather than May 8 or May 11, two earlier dates for the campaign's final day. "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 NHL explained in a statement shared over the weekend.