Toronto Maple Leafs begin rehearsing for COVID-19 ravaged team, staff

The Maple Leafs have not played since December 14 and have had six competitions canceled in a row.Perry Nelson / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Sheldon Keefe was tested positive for COVID-19 in the hours before the Maple Leafs were to play the Canucks on December 18th.

At that point, he was fine.

“I hardly believed it,” Toronto’s head coach said Tuesday after returning to oversee training for the first time since then. “I would not believe it.”

The fight in Vancouver that night was postponed at the last minute as the new coronavirus began to spread rapidly within the team. To date, 14 players, three coaches and four other staff members have been infected.

Within a day of his diagnosis, Keefe began to feel ill.

“The last 10 days have been pretty quiet and five were pretty tough,” the 41-year-old said. “You get to the point where you do not want to do much.”

Keefe said he suffered from flu-like symptoms for four days, after which it felt like he had a cold.

“It was certainly not comfortable,” he said.

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After a few days in quarantine, Keefe was able to return to Toronto and spend Christmas with his family. One of his two sons was tested positive while Keefe was away. Luckily he was asymptomatic, but it gave a strange holiday.

“We were able to be together separately,” Keefe said. “It felt strange for all of us to wear masks inside.”

Within a day of his COVID-19 diagnosis, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe began to feel ill.Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The Maple Leafs have not played since December 14 and have had six competitions canceled in a row. Their next scheduled game is at home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

22 players attended a training session Tuesday at the Ford Performance Center in the western end of town. It’s up from 6pm on Monday, when the team met for training for the first time since December 16th.

A session scheduled for Dec. 17 in Vancouver was canceled as a precautionary measure after John Tavares and Alexander Kerfoot tested positive. Within 24 hours, seven players, Keefe and assistant coach Spencer Carbery had all been placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list when the virus gained a foothold.

Cases have kept popping up and defenders Jake Muzzin is the latest to be identified Sunday.

Like Keefe, goalkeeper Jack Campbell and defenders TJ Brodie and Travis Dermott were back at work on Tuesday.

Dermott said he started getting symptoms on the night of Dec. 17 in his hotel room in Vancouver.

“I had headaches and cold sweats and was pretty sure I would test positive the next morning,” Dermott said. He did so and continued to test positive until December 23rd.

His 25th birthday was on December 22nd and he had planned to hold a big party for his family.

“It stopped pretty quickly,” Dermott said.

Dermott said he felt better after a day or two, but daily tests showed he was still positive.

“From then on, it was just a match waiting for a negative test,” Dermott said. “I’m happy to be back. It felt like I was away from the rink and the guys for an eternity.”

Kerfoot, one of the first Maple Leaf players to fall ill with COVID-19, trained Tuesday for the second day in a row.

He said he had only minor symptoms – congestion and night sweats – and that he stayed in Vancouver, his hometown, and was quarantined there while his teammates returned to Toronto.

“In the beginning, it was not ideal for us to be on the move,” said Kerfoot, 27. “This mutation [of the virus] is super contagious. Even if you follow all the rules, you can still get it. It’s a shame, but it’s the world we live in right now. ”

Keefe said the team will have a day off on Wednesday and then prepare Thursday and Friday for the game against Ottawa on Saturday.

He said players have commented that they felt worse after their first training session after COVID-19 than they had after their first training session in the pre-season. Campbell was kept to only light work in an abbreviated workout.

“We’re trying to figure out what’s best for the players and what they need,” Keefe said. “It’s definitely a challenge. It seems like an eternity since we played against Edmonton and got an away win. [on Dec. 14]. “

Keefe said everyone on the team has been affected by COVID-19, infected or not.

“I feel the atmosphere is good and the group is happy to be together again,” he said. “But everyone is on top and on guard with what is going on around us here.

“There is a lot of anxiety, even for the guys who have not become ill. They wait and wonder, ‘When is it my turn?’ That’s the thing. “

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