Hellebuyck was in a haze after contracting COVID-19

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Timing is usually Connor Hellebuyck's strong point. But as the Winnipeg Jets goaltender was wrapping up his off-season preparations ahead of training camp, he contracted COVID-19, throwing his plans — and body — into a foggy haze.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/09/2021 (330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Timing is usually Connor Hellebuyck’s strong point. But as the Winnipeg Jets goaltender was wrapping up his off-season preparations ahead of training camp, he contracted COVID-19, throwing his plans — and body — into a foggy haze.

“My symptoms were a very bad headache, really bad fatigue. It felt like I really couldn’t move a whole lot,” Hellebuyck said, following the first on-ice training camp session at the Iceplex.

“I stayed as mobile as I could. I got in a sauna, that helped a lot. It took about a week, week and a half, for the fog to fade, then I started feeling like myself again. Now, I’m pretty excited about where I am and where we’re heading.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is fully vaccinated after contracting COVID-19 in August.

Hellebuyck is rarely one to shy away from offering up an opinion, and with his diagnosis now public he also wasn’t afraid to share his experience. He didn’t say where or how he got the virus, only that he was being as careful as possible not to get it.

He went most of summer scare-free, but his luck would run out near the third week of August. Hellebuyck said he had just started “feeling camp ready” when he got the diagnosis, which set him back about two weeks.

“I thought I was healthy enough, and I was healthy enough to get through it. I have no spleen, so I thought I might be compromised,” he said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to get it, but I thought I handled it the way I was projected to handle it.”

Where things got really complicated for the 28-year-old was after his diagnosis. Hellebuyck wasn’t vaccinated at the time and the NHL, having drawn hard lines in the sand between unvaccinated and vaccinated players, was applying pressure to get the jab.

With unvaccinated players unable to cross the Canada-US border and the league allowing teams to suspend those players, meaning forfeiting pay, Hellebuyck said it didn’t feel much like a personal choice anymore. He’s since been fully vaccinated.

“I’m not anti-vax by any means, but I’d like to have that decision for myself. It felt very forced on me,” he said. “Just where I am with my health, I had just gotten COVID and gotten over it and I had to get the vax, which made me feel like I had COVID all over again. So, if I could have had at least had some time to choose, maybe I would have gotten it… what do they recommend, three months later? But it felt a little forced on me and I would have liked to have that choice.”

Hellebuyck added he hoped he would have received more support from the NHL’s player union, including being offered alternative options. He didn’t seem to care about any added restrictions for being unvaccinated and seemed more concerned about his health and what getting the virus and the vaccination so close together might mean for it.

“That’s why I would’ve liked to have the option. Once I had COVID, I didn’t want to put the vaccine in me and double up what my body is already going through,” he said. “That was a big concern for me and that’s why I took the first day of camp really seriously, getting the EKGs, the (echocardiogram), and making sure my bloodwork was all good, and that my body is good to go. As far as I know, I’m healthy. Like I said, I’m really excited for the season, my body is healthy, and I’m ready to go.”

+++

Dylan Samberg went down with a leg injury after getting tangled up in the corner with fellow defensive prospect Johnathan Kovacevic. The 2017 second-round pick was in obvious discomfort on the bench.

Samberg, 22, played 32 games with the Manitoba Moose last year, scoring once and helping set up six others, and is likely destined to return to the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he’s eager to see the 6-3, 200-pound Minnesotan in action during the preseason.

“So it’s lower body, so it’s probably a knee or an ankle. He’s going to get it looked at (Friday). Fingers crossed, not even for the Winnipeg Jets, but for him. Train all summer and he’s an exhibition guy, he’s playing four or five or six (games). So I hope he’s ready to go.”

+++

Team White trailed 1-0 in the scrimmage but rallied for a 2-1 win on the strength of Josh Morrissey’s late equalizer and a nifty shootout goal by 2020 first-round pick Cole Perfetti.

Star netminder Hellebuyck was bamboozled on the play.

“He’s a slick player. When he came in so slow, it really threw me off guard because I hadn’t gone that slow at all this summer. I’ve been going fast and making sure I get my speed up so him coming that slow really put me in the trolley tracks and good move for him,” said the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie.

That should earn the kid a spot on the opening-night roster, quipped a local scribe to Maurice.

“Clearly, you should run hard with that. And if (he) doesn’t (make it), it would be because I don’t like young players,” the long-time coach answered, with a bit of sauce for his detractors, before pleading his case. “The evidence, Your Honour, (is) that I had one of the youngest forward groups in the NHL for about the last four years.

+++

Five of Winnipeg’s six pre-season games will be broadcast on TSN3, beginning with the team’s opener this Sunday night against the visiting Ottawa Senators (7 p.m.)

The TV station will also show 60 regular-season contests, while the remaining 22 will be broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada and Sportsnet.

All 82 games will be broadcast on 680 CJOB Radio.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.catwitter: @WFPJasonBell

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.catwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Thursday, September 23, 2021 8:51 PM CDT: Updates photo.

Updated on Friday, September 24, 2021 7:50 AM CDT: Changes Team Blue to Team White

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