July 12, 2020

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Jets' Copp rarin' to go, but COVID restrictions put crimp in plans

Foreign players, such as Andrew Copp, will have to quarantine for two weeks when they get to Canada. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Foreign players, such as Andrew Copp, will have to quarantine for two weeks when they get to Canada. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Andrew Copp is amped up to rejoin his Winnipeg Jets teammates on the ice but isn’t considering a return to Manitoba any time soon.

The 25-year-old forward, spending the coronavirus-caused pause to the NHL’s 2019-20 season at his home in Michigan, wants to begin skating in preparation for the proposed Stanley Cup playoffs later this summer but would need to quarantine at his Winnipeg apartment for two weeks before hitting the ice.

And while he understands why the health directive is in place, he said being cooped up is key preparation time wasted.

"I’ve been staying in shape, I’ve worked so hard to continue to train and try to do the best I can with what’s at my disposal. I feel that would go out the window if I was just sitting in my apartment for two weeks," Copp said Wednesday during a video chat with reporters.

The NHL released details of its return-to-play protocol Tuesday and is moving into Phase 2, which includes the opening of practise rinks and allowing small, voluntary group workouts on and off the ice.

But players travelling into Canada would have to isolate for 14 days as a precaution, owing to federal government restrictions because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, before taking part in those workouts.

"The two-week quarantine the Canadian government has in right now will pretty much deter me from coming back until the start of training camp or until that gets lifted," Copp said.

"I think in the next week or two I might head down to Florida and start skating again because I need to be on the ice.

The fifth-year pro said he’s on board with the NHL’s plans, including a 24-team playoff format. The Jets would face the Calgary Flames in a best-of-five preliminary series. The NHL has proposed the start of training camps in July, with a late July or early August start to the post-season.

Speaking Tuesday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said a few players testing positive for wouldn’t necessarily capsize the playoffs, hinting games would continue and the players would isolate or received treatment if required.

Copp agreed one player contracting COVID-19 shouldn’t be the trigger for scrapping the post-season in midstream.

"I think there’s the risk-reward for pretty much everything in life, and I think that one person getting sick — if that’s the case and it would shut down the whole tournament — then I don’t think we can really start the whole tournament because there is a somewhat decent chance that one person’s going to get sick," he said. "There’s those inherent risks that you kind of weigh every day, and I think one guy getting sick isn’t going to shut down the entire tournament."

Regular testing of NHL players is part of the protocol, something Copp isn’t crazy about but supports.

"I have not been tested. I have heard it’s kind of painful. So, I don’t know if I’m looking forward to doing that every day or two days, or whatever it is. It’s going to be something that’s probably necessary for us to play," he said.

"Obviously, health and safety is at the forefront of all the issues. So, if we can find a way to be as healthy and safe as possible and be able to play some hockey and play in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup, you’re going to want to take that opportunity."

Playoff games would be staged in a pair of yet-to-be-determined hub cities, one for each of the Western and Eastern conferences. Teams on long Cup runs could be locked in those cities for a couple of months. Although he’s single, Copp acknowledged that’s going to put a major strain on teammates and others around the league with families.

"It’s going to be tough for them to just leave and not know when they’re going to see each other next," he said. "I’m not sure how overly willing guys are going to be to do that. Hopefully, we can find a way for families to visit or stay with players."

While Copp doesn’t have a preference for a hub city, he’s most concerned about how the ice will hold up if four or five games a day are being played, particularly in southern spots such as Las Vegas or Dallas.

The Jets are a close-knit bunch and love hanging out together on the road, and he hopes that’s a possibility during the playoffs.

"I don’t want it to be bricked into a hotel room by any means. I’m one to push for openness, but at the same time, I do know how there are risks involved with obviously contracting the virus, so you want to eliminate those as much as possible. But with that said, if restaurants are social distancing and doing all the right things in terms of sanitary restrictions and all of that, I feel like it would be safe to go to a restaurant.

"It’s going to be interesting for sure. The bubble is not going to be sealed airtight.

Copp was having his finest year as a pro when the regular season came to an abrupt end March 12. He scored 10 goals (one off his career best) and had 26 points (two shy of his career best), and still had 11 games left on the slate to beef up his stats.

He said he’s intrigued by a Jets-Flames series, a pair of teams with nearly identical records.

Winnipeg won four straight games and was 37-28-6 before the season was suspended and still had two games left against Calgary in the final three weeks of the campaign. The Jets are seeded ninth in the Western Conference with a winning percentage of .563, just back of eighth-seed Calgary (36-27-7, .564). 

"They have some very high-end skill players at the top of their lineup and they have some fantastic defencemen. (Flames goalie David) Rittich’s been really solid in net. I feel like it’s a pretty even series," Copp said. "I know they have an elite power play and an elite top two lines, so we’re going to have to be ready to play them hard. I’m sure our offensive guns will be ready to go."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant 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).

Read full biography

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Updated on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 9:20 PM CDT: Full write through, final version.

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