Falcons hit with coronavirus
The St. Catharines Falcons have become the first team in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League to be shutdown by the COVID-19 virus.
Falcons coach Tyler Bielby confirmed multiple players have tested positive and that the virus was contracted outside the dressing room in a setting of less than 10 people. The exact number of players was not revealed but Bielby did say it was in “single digits.” The Falcons are carrying 22 players on their roster.
The Falcons have not practised or played since Friday, Oct. 30.
“We had gotten a call from a player who wasn’t feeling too well so as a result we asked him not to come to the rink and then got another call that someone wasn’t feeling well,” Bielby said.
The Falcons then quickly cancelled a scheduled scrimmage with the Niagara Falls Canucks slated for Sunday, Nov. 1 as a precaution. Within 24 hours the club received a call from Public Health.
“I received a call Monday [Nov. 2) from Public Health explaining there was a positive case and at that point they were starting their contact tracing,” Bielby said. “The Falcons assisted in the process and provided Public Health with all names and contact information with all those involved in the organization. From there, they started their interviews and then of course tests started and the boys at that point were all isolated for 14 days going back to Oct. 30.
“It all happened pretty fast.”
Bielby is confident the situation is under control.
“We’re tying to sort out as an organization when we’re going to be back on the ice next and how we’re going to do that,” he said. “On a positive note, all of our most recent several tests have come back negative. We were hit with some concerning news early on and it seems to have flattened out since then.”
Bielby said the players are doing their best to deal with the news.
“The boys are doing well,” he said. “Hockey is of course secondary at this point. They seem to be in decent spirits but having said that, as an organization there are a lot of heavy thoughts in general right now.
“It’s been quite the experience, to say the least.”
Bielby said the GOJHL has been notified.
“The league is up to date with what is transpiring because we want to be transparent so everything is laid out there and can pay attention to what happened, why it happened, and potentially make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “In the world we’re living, there is no guarantee. This virus is amongst us, we’re not amongst the virus, and this is a perfect example.”
The individuals who tested positive are slated to be cleared to return as of Friday, Nov. 13 at midnight.
“It’s all about the individual and their isolation date and then they are cleared to resume normal life,” Bielby said.
All GOJHL teams were given a list of protocols to follow when camps opened in September.
“We’re following protocols in our dressing room based on what was put out and we will continue to do so. Having said that, anytime you get a slew of cases like that, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice if we didn’t look to see how we can move forward to see how we can create a better or more safe atmosphere,” Bielby said.
The Falcons will need to get back up to speed quickly when they do return to the ice. The league has set a Dec. 2 start date, pending government approval.
“We were on the ice quite a bit and definitely getting used to each other. We were starting to see the results of some of the work being put in come together,” Bielby said. “No one wants to be dealing with this and I know the players will use it as an opportunity to grow a little closer, to really come together and really learn from this as a group and get ready for hockey as a group when that time comes.”
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