Goaltender Dylan Garand of Langford envisioned several scenarios when he arrived at the Canadian national junior hockey team training camp in Red Deer. Having the gaping amount of time to sit in his hotel room and re-watch the entire season of Suits on Netflix wasn’t one of them.
“It’s sometimes boring. It’s a bit of a challenge but the time is not going as slowly as people might think. I actually feel it’s going rather quickly,” said Garand, by phone.
The Canadian players are today in Day 11 of their 14-day quarantine after two unnamed players tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re on the back end of it now,” said Garand.
The players are one to a room. Exercise bikes were delivered to each room.
“The stationary bike really helps,” said Garand, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL draft by the New York Rangers.
Team-wide, in-room workouts are also being conducted by the strength and conditioning coach via Zoom.
But goaltending requires different skill sets than those of skaters. An old favourite dryland goalie drill involves throwing a tennis ball off a wall and reacting to block it as it rebounds back to you. Garand chuckled that the hotel probably wouldn’t appreciate balls being bounced off the walls of its rooms, so he has flipped a table on its side and is bouncing the ball off that. There are also daily team meetings via Zoom.
“We manage to keep in touch,” said Garand.
The Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association graduate expressed confidence the 2021 IIHF world junior tournament, to be conducted without fans in a bubble in Edmonton, will be safe.
“I’m not concerned,” said Garand, who plays in the Western Hockey League for the Kamloops Blazers.
“They are setting a high standard of safety for the event. And once we come out of quarantine here in Red Deer, we know we will be COVID-free.”
Garand was emerging as one of the storylines of the Canadian camp with the Islander delivering the kind of scrimmage-game play in the crease that was attracting national attention.
“It was cool to be facing the top shooters from across the country. I don’t think this stoppage will break my momentum,” he said.
“Everybody is in the same boat.”
Former Victoria Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook, however, was in a different boat right from the start in Red Deer. Since the 2019-20 NCAA rookie of the year came up from Boston College, he had been skating in isolation from the other players as part of the regular 14-day quarantine required upon crossing the border. That means Newhook, and fellow NCAA Canadian camp invitees Devon Levi from Northeastern and Dylan Holloway from the University of Wisconsin Badgers, will have effectively spent up to 28 days in quarantine. The 2019 Colorado Avalanche first-round draft pick Newhook, B.C. Hockey League top rookie in his first season in Victoria and BCHL MVP in his second season, was cut from the national team camp last year but is favoured to make the Canadian team for these world juniors. So, his marathon quarantine odyssey will have been worth it as the price to pay for glory.
Newhook, Holloway and goaltender Levi will join the main camp when it resumes Dec. 7 in Red Deer. The host team will enter the Edmonton bubble Dec. 13. The 2021 world juniors begin Christmas Day with defending-champion Canada playing Germany on Boxing Day.
The 2022 world junior championship returns to Edmonton and Red Deer in what is projected to be a more normal time post-vaccine. The 2019 world junior championship was played in Victoria and Vancouver and the 2020 tournament pre-COVID in the Czech Republic.