If he recognizes that the many cases of COVID-19 declared within the Armada of Blainville-Boisbriand have “opened their eyes to the contagion of the virus”, the head coach of the team Bruce Richardson believes that the he organization has nothing to be ashamed of in its management of the crisis.
The QMJHL roster resumed training on October 19, 14 days after the first positive case was made public. Recall that 18 players and three members of the team were affected.
At this time, a total of 10 out of 24 players have been given the green light to resume training normally, while the rest are still in one or the other of the return-to-play phases prescribed in the protocol of the QMJHL in matters of COVID-19.
“At first we felt bad but then we realized that it had spread throughout the entire arena, both among the kids in sports studies and in the gym. We were exposed unlike a team like the Remparts de Québec, for example, which are the only ones to occupy their arena. It opened our eyes even if we took all the precautions. […] We are the busiest arena in Quebec and we operate in the Montreal region, which is the most affected. We knew we were among the teams most likely to have cases. We could have put Saran Wrap around our players, the virus is still there and there are over 1000 cases per day, “said the hockey man.
The Rousseau Sports Center of Excellence has indeed become a hotbed of the COVID-19 outbreak. Coaches from the Joël Bouchard Hockey Academy and arena employees have also contracted the virus.
Over the past few weeks, the Journal has reported on several situations that may have contributed to the increase in infections in the Armada.
Just before the first case was confirmed, a member of the team’s staff, who was showing symptoms that could resemble those of COVID-19 during a game in Sherbrooke, had been sidelined by The Armada and the team had placed him in the team descriptor car for the ride home rather than the team coach. The descriptor was at his post the next day on the press gallery with his media colleagues and, a few days later, he and the staff member learned that he had COVID-19.
Richardson denies having lacked caution in this matter.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. In that case, what should we have done? Either we put him on the bus with 25 players or we carpool him with the descriptor of our matches. Even if he had been asked to come back by taxi, we would have exposed someone. For us, it was the smartest way. What should have been done? Ask him to walk back from Sherbrooke or put him in the baggage compartment of the bus? ”He retorted.
Not a bubble
The Armada pilot, however, admits that all is not perfect. In his view, the concept of a bubble does not apply to the QMJHL, whatever may be said.
“It is wrong to say that we are in a bubble because our young people are in boarding families with people who work outside. The bubble is like what the National Hockey League did, “he said.
Some ideas have circulated in recent weeks as to how the QMJHL could make these “bubbles” more watertight and thus allow the twelve Quebec teams to resume action. One of them, designed by the Remparts de Québec, proposed moving players and staff to a hotel and restricting their movement to the arena only. Even with this plan, the risks would remain present, argues Richardson.
“The NHL was the only one to use their arena. They were really in a bubble. If we go to the hotel, we will reduce the risks but our arena will not be closed. The virus is here. During the first wave, it was concentrated more in the CHSLDs but there, it is in the population. It’s much more difficult to manage. ”
Everyone is well
Richardson also assured that no infected player has been seriously affected by the disease.
“Some had a fever, others had sore throats and coughs, and some had loss of smell and taste for 48 to 72 hours. We touch wood because it went well. In our pensions, one person was infected in total. We will at least take that as a positive. ”
The team have stepped up their sanitary measures since returning to the arena. The Armada now has a single entrance and hallway leading to the team locker room, which only players and staff can use. Upon arrival, they are asked to replace the mask they are wearing for a procedural one that they must keep until they set foot on the ice. Trainers even wear it on the icy surface.
Armada players have also started testing the effectiveness of some masks during practice.
“We are taking even more precautions, because the virus is still there,” adds the coach.