Canada’s World Junior camp resumes

Five players released after being deemed “unfit to play”

Following a two-week quarantine, Canada’s training camp for the World Juniors got back underway on Tuesday in Red Deer.
However, five players are no longer vying for a spot on the team.

Defencemen Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw Warriors), Mason Millman (Saginaw Spirit) and Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings), along with forwards Ridly Grieg (Brandon Wheat Kings) and Xavier Simoneau (Drummondville Voltigeurs) were all sent home after being deemed “unfit to continue to play based on return-to-play protocols” according to Hockey Canada.

“With those five players, it’s obviously a very, very difficult position and situation,” Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond said on Tuesday during a press conference.

“This is not a hockey decision. This is a health decision based on return-to-play protocols. They were unable to continue with camp today. (We) feel horribly for those kids.”

Greig, who is a first round pick of the Ottawa Senators, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus last month and told Danica Ferris of Global Lethbridge on Tuesday that his lungs were still weak and that he wasn’t going to be able to play at 100 per cent.

The news involving the Canadian players comes as more players from national Under-20 teams are being diagnosed with COVID-19, which has left them unable to compete in their respective training camps.

Among the notable players to miss out on the tournament are Thimo Nickl of Austria, Nino Kinder and Lukas Reichel of Germany, William Eklund, Albin Grewe and William Wallinder of Sweden, and Drew Commesso, Robert Mastrosimone and Alex Vlasic of the United States

Sweden’s head coach Tomas Monten has also tested positive for COVID-19.

All 10 teams competing in the tournament are expected to arrive in Edmonton on Sunday and move into a bubble environment, though Sweden’s status was up in the air as of Tuesday night.

“This is obviously worrying and a difficult situation where our ultimate responsibility is the safety of players and leaders,” Swedish Ice Hockey Association secretary-general Johan Stark said in a statement.

“Now we have a challenge in complementing the management staff based on time and a sporting perspective. This is a serious situation from a safety perspective and we must follow this hour by hour and we also have a close dialogue with the International Ice Hockey Federation to describe our situation and review our alternatives.”

The IIHF said on Tuesday that the tournament is scheduled to go ahead as planned from Dec. 25-Jan. 5 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, while Salmond revealed that the tournament can be held with a minimum of eight teams.

“It’s difficult and you hold your breath every day,” he added. “You hope, not only for our sake, but others that they can get to Edmonton on Sunday, be healthy and have a real strong competition.”

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, was asked during a press conference on Tuesday if he had any concerns about the tournament’s safety.

“The protocols that we’ve seen from a pure technical public health perspective, I think I’ve mentioned this earlier, look good, with respect to the fact that they’re going to be using, or intend to use the same bubble concept that was successful for the NHL and also for the NBA, with their playoffs last year,” Njoo said.

“Having said that though, everyone’s also well aware that there’s a larger context. You could have a tournament in a bubble, but there’s also the situation, epidemiologically, that’s happening in both Canada and the US, as you’ve now alluded to, in other countries, so that’s something we’re keeping an eye on.