How Detroit Red Wings will stay busy on lonely road trips during COVID-19 pandemic

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

Show Caption

The Detroit Red Wings head on the road for the first time this season feeling good about themselves after a 2-2 start — but apprehensive about their first travel experience.

A week into the 2021 season, four of their players already have spent time in COVID-19 protocol, and every day brings fresh news involving the pandemic. Now comes a week away from home, with team personnel essentially confined to their hotel outside of games and practices. Hearing from other players who already have gone through the experience, Anthony Mantha knows what to expect.

“They say it’s bad,” he said Thursday after an unusual practice at Little Caesars Arena. “But, at the end of the day, it’s the sacrifice to play the game right now.

“We have to be in our rooms most of the time. We are not allowed to go out to restaurants or anything of that sort. They are asking us to quarantine in the hotel. I’m not sure yet what it’s going to look like for team meals — if we are allowed to go in a room, or if we have to stay in our room. It’s going to be alone time a little more than usual. I’ll be one of the guys that’s going to bring his Xbox on the road to start. And then I’ll start Yellowstone — everybody says that’s really good, so that’s on my bucket list.”

Why Red Wings seem totally different from last season’s disaster ]

In order to cut down on time spent in a hotel, the Wings are scheduled to fly to Chicago on Friday morning, as opposed to normally flying the day before a game. They will go through daily COVID testing at the hangar before departing. Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne, who have been in COVID protocol since Jan. 18, will not travel. Darren Helm, who began the season on the league’s protocol list, and Christian Djoos, who had to quarantine after being claimed off waivers Jan. 9, will travel and could debut at Chicago.

The Wings, who split two-game series’ against Carolina and Columbus at home, play again at Chicago on Sunday, then head to Dallas for games on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Wings broke Thursday’s practice into four small, separate groups. Coach Jeff Blashill said it was because a couple players, who he would not identify, were unavailable. Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, Danny DeKeyser, Bobby Ryan, Patrik Nemeth, Michael Rasmussen and Helm and Djoos were among those who did practice.

How Bobby Ryan is quickly proving his value to the Red Wings ]

The Stars had to delay the start of their season to Friday after 17 members of the team tested positive for COVID during training camp. The Hurricanes have also had to postpone games.

Wednesday evening, it was the Washington Capitals who made headlines, when the NHL announced it had fined the club $100,000 fine for violations of COVID protocols, namely “social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings.” It emerged 35-year-old team captain Alex Ovechkin had gathered with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov — which landed all of them on the protocol list and is estimated to sideline them at least four games.

“Everyone saw what happened with Washington, so it’s just going to be a matter of being alone, basically,” Mantha said. “I know it’s going to suck, but at the end of the day, it’s a little sacrifice for us to be able to play this year. I know a lot of players are going to bring their Xboxes, their laptops, download a couple movies — it’s just the reality we live in right now.”

Players are not forbidden from interacting on the road, but they are required to wear a face covering.

“For the most part, we are in our hotel rooms, and we have meals available in the hotel so that we don’t have to go out,” Blashill said. “You can’t go out to restaurants or go out and get takeout — that can be delivered via Door Dash or what not. They can go out for a walk, but they have to wear their masks when they go out for a walk.

“There’s just a whole bunch of differences that is part of the reality of us being able to play. If that means we have to have lots of restrictions on the road, so be be it. So long as it gives us a chance to compete and play.”


Jeff Blashill: It will be strange for Red Wings to travel this season

Jeff Blashill interview, Jan. 21, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

Articles You May Like

Detroit Red Wings’ 2018 Draft Regrets
Detroit Red Wings’ 2024 Offseason Blueprint
3 Potential Destinations for Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault
Red Wings’ 3 Most Improved Prospects of 2023-24 Season

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *