Kelowna Rockets head coach Kris Mallette says he is thankful to have put a COVID-19 outbreak behind him — and his team — without significant, long-term consequences.
The WHL gave Kelowna a green light on Wednesday to resume team activites, and the Rockets skated for the first time in two weeks after seven positive tests among players and staff.
“This (disease) is real,” Mallette said. “I guess I was lucky. Everything that I was dealing with — the headache, the cough, and the aches and pains — was easily medicated with over-the-counter medication.
“But the thing is ... everybody had a different experience. I was fortunate, I would say.”
The Rockets played two games — a 5-0 win over the Victoria Royals, and a 6-0 loss to the Vancouver Giants — ending March 28 before the first positive test.
The Rockets then went into quarantine and missed nine games. Kelowna and Prince George (3-3-2) are scheduled to play on Saturday at Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
Mallette said the Rockets are attempting to keep things simple given the long layoff.
After finally getting clearance from the Provincial Health Office to begin a season in mid-March, the Rockets had 11 days together before they were shut down again.
“When you are facing a situation like this, where you start and try to build into it ... you’re trying to gain some sort of traction,” Mallette said. “At this point now, again, we’re going to be trying to get back into on-ice shape, and try to incorporate those small habits that hopefully bring us success moving forward.
“Definitley it is going to be a little tougher for this next little while, but hopefully the adrenaline kicks in and our guys play on pure adrenaline to get it under our feet.”
If all goes to plan, the Rockets (1-1-0) could be back on Prospera Place ice Monday against Victoria (1-6-1).
Kelowna’s Prospera Place and Kamloops are hosting “bubbles” for the B.C. Division.
No fans are admitted into arenas, but the WHL is streaming at watch.chl.ca.
BoweY Back in B.C.
The Kelowna Rockets are encouraged to see one of their own — former captain Madison Bowey — back in the province.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded the 25-year-old defenceman to the Vancouver Canucks this week, putting Bowey on his fourth NHL club in four seasons.
He piloted the Rockets to a WHL title and within one overtime goal of a Memorial Cup in 2015.
“It’s a good trade for Vancouver with how hard it is to find defencemen,” Rockets owner Bruce Hamilton told the Vancouver Province newspaper. “He’s the full package. He’s big and can skate and has some bite, too, which is something the Canucks are probably looking for because he’s built like a linebacker.”
Bowey is embracing the move.
“My goal is to make Vancouver my home for a long time,” he told the Province. “I’m ready to relish a role and I can’t say it’s my last (career) shot, but I’m treating it like that. I want to stick here and be a big part of the puzzle for years to come.”