Copp has a COVID Christmas

Jets centreman spent time in quarantine, nothing to do but work out


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GLENDALE — Normally, a surprise during Christmas is a good thing. Whether it’s an unexpected gift or a top-secret visit from a loved one, the holidays can be filled with these kind of memory-making moments.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/01/2022 (452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

GLENDALE — Normally, a surprise during Christmas is a good thing. Whether it’s an unexpected gift or a top-secret visit from a loved one, the holidays can be filled with these kind of memory-making moments.

Not so much during a global pandemic, however. Just ask Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp, who didn’t appreciate the not-so-special delivery he received.

Copp, 28, skated with his team on the morning of Dec. 21, then rushed to the airport for his flight home to Michigan for a fun-filled four-day break. The Jets, and all 31 other NHL clubs, were off until Boxing Day. But shortly after stepping off the plane, he learned the COVID-19 test he’d taken earlier that day under NHL protocols had come back positive.

“I was definitely a little surprised,” Copp said Monday. “It was interesting timing for sure, especially getting back to see friends and family for Christmas. So that kind of put a damper on it.”

Despite not having any symptoms, Copp was immediately sent into quarantine. During this time the rules changed for asymptomatic American citizens, and the period of required isolation was cut from 10 days to five. Fortunately Copp had brought his equipment with him — he was planning to get in a skate or two prior to flying back to Winnipeg on Dec. 26.

Those plans would have to be put on hold, as Canada would not let him in until he’d spent 14 days out of the country. But with Winnipeg’s two home games on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29 postponed, along with the Dec. 31 game in Calgary as well, due to restrictions on fans north of the border due to surging case counts, that meant they wouldn’t return to game action until Sunday in Las Vegas.

So with his teammates hard at work back in Winnipeg, with six practices over a seven-day stretch last week, Copp emerged from his temporary timeout and put himself through the paces.

“I knew that after kind of being stuck at home, just kind of doing your own workouts for five or six days that I was going to have push relatively hard on the ice. I was able to do that pretty well,” said Copp.

“Lucky enough to be in an area where I have some great alternatives available to me with the U.S. program and (his alma mater, the University of) Michigan and some of the sports science equipment that they have to get me back up to where I needed to be to play an NHL game (Sunday). Obviously the NHL games move a little bit faster.

“I think once we kind of got our legs under us in the second (period) it felt like all the work I did had been the best I could to get ready for that game. It ended up working out.”

It certainly did. After falling behind 2-0 and getting outshot 22-10 in the opening 20 minutes, the Jets rallied with four straight goals. Copp scored the last of those, banging home his own rebound on the power play early in the third period. His tally would have been the winner if Mattias Janmark hadn’t scored with eight seconds remaining in regulation, sending the game to overtime. Kyle Connor quickly ended it during the three-on-three session.

“It ended up being kind of a good thing in the long run, really. Didn’t miss any games. I felt I was able to use that break a little bit to rest and kind of get a mental reset almost,” Copp said of his absence from the team going longer than expected. “Try to come back a little fresher in the head. I was able to train a good portion of the time, it was good to see the changing quarantine rules. So it ended up being a blessing, really.”

Although his offensive production has slowed a bit after a sizzling start, Copp is still on track to pass his personal bests in goals (15) and assists (24) set last season. He’s up to eight goals and 13 helpers this year with 51 regular-season games remaining.

Copp said he’s thankful his old connections in his home state continue to be there for him and other Michigan-born players.

“It’s super nice. Both (U of M) and the U.S. program. Some of the experienced coaches that I use are with the U.S. program, an old one from Michigan I kind of keep in touch with, too. Kind of use both of them to kind of construct my workouts,” he said.

“Obviously their facilities are top notch. The gym area there is unbelievable, the skates that we’ve had. Same sort of thing, always open, being able to skate with some really high-end players the last couple days before I came to meet the team.”

Four Jets have tested positive for COVID-19 this season, although they’ve managed to avoid any major outbreaks so far. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler caught the virus days apart in October. Scheifele was in Winnipeg at the time, while Wheeler ended up being stuck in a Minnesota hotel room for 10 days prior to re-joining the team on a road trip in California. And now Copp and Kristian Vesalainen got it on the same day. Vesalainen had also remained in the city, but he was unable to see family members who had flown in from Finland for a holiday visit.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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