It’s been nearly a week since the Wild paused their season because of a COVID outbreak and, according to general manager Bill Guerin, they might not be out of the woods quite yet.
“There definitely could be more,” Guerin said during a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “It’s kind of creeping its way through the team.”
As of Monday morning, nine Wild players — Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Brad Hunt, Marcus Johansson, Jared Spurgeon and Nico Sturm — remain on the COVID list. While a player being added to the COVID list doesn’t necessarily mean he has tested positive, Guerin confirmed that some players on the team have tested positive and currently are symptomatic.
“Nothing too crazy,” Guerin said. “Just some achiness, loss of taste and smell, things like that. The most important thing is everybody gets out on the other side OK.”
Technically, the Wild can reopen team facilities on Wednesday, and have a game against the St. Louis Blues scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. Neither of those things seem likely at this point.
Here are parts of Guerin’s lengthy chat with reporters. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You are scheduled to play a game Thursday. Is that possible considering nearly half the team is currently on the COVID list?
I don’t think so. I really don’t. That would make things extremely difficult. Just transactions alone would be insane trying to figure out the cap and everything like that. I think we’d be better off taking the extra time and making sure our guys here are healthy. If we have to wait a few more days, we have to wait a few more days. I don’t think this is something that we want to cram a round peg into a square hole. Let’s just wait it out and be patient and do the right thing.
There are still new cases popping up every day. Could the team have done anything different over the past week to prevent the spread?
No. I really don’t think there was much that we could have done. The cases are coming kind of bit by bit. We’re getting a couple here, a couple there. Maybe we’ll get a couple more tomorrow. We just have to be patient and ride it out. I think the most important thing is that people get to the other side of this healthy and we will resume playing hockey when it’s safe to do so.
Are players being forced to quarantine?
Yeah. Don’t leave the house. I think everybody has been doing a good job (of that). It’s just what we have to do. We know we have a responsibility and that the players in this town are well known. You can’t be out at the grocery store or at restaurants or anything like that. We are staying home and making sure we’re being responsible to the others in our community. We trust the guys. We know that they are doing the right thing.
What’s the plan as far as re-opening the team facilities? Will there be any practices before jumping back into games?
I know there are teams out there that kind of went through the same thing that started doing smaller groups right when they could. Then there are other teams that waited and went right back into full practice. Not sure what we’re going to be able to do and when we’re going to be able to do it. Nothing is open right now. We are still shut down. It’s something that we’ll be talking about here in the next few days.
Is completing a 56-game schedule even possible at this point?
Absolutely. There’s so much more things going on behind the scenes at the league, and they have so many more things figured out. The people that create the schedule, they have planned for this stuff and they are professionals at this. Just rearranging schedules and building dates and things like that. We are in good hands, and I 100% think we will get the whole thing in.
OK. You believe a 56-game is still possible. Is there a worry about cramming games in?
Whatever they come back to us with, we will accept. This is no time to be complaining. This is not the time for that. This will be the time to be appreciative that we’re able to get back to play. Just dealing with it. The schedule is tough as it is, so if we can get back and cram a few more games in, then that’s the way we’ll do it.
There will be a lot of time between games before and after your COVID pause. Is there a concern the team might struggle when it finally returns to the ice?
I don’t like to use excuses like that. We might not be as sharp. We might not have four or five practices under our belt. That shouldn’t deter our competitive nature. Just put our best effort out there. No excuses. There are other teams that are doing it, so when we get back, we have the same expectations.