Over the last month, the Washington Capitals loaned five prospects overseas as the NHL continues to grapple with how to conduct and start its 2020-21 season. Other NHL teams have followed suit.
Damien Riat and Tobias Geisser were loaned to Swiss National League teams; Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was returned to his native Sweden to play in the HockeyAllsvenskan; and Alex Alexeyev and Aliaksei Protas are playing in Russia’s KHL. All five are expected to be called back for Capitals’ training camp.
The tradeoff of the loans is simple: Caps prospects continue playing hockey, but they also assume varying degrees of risk of contracting the coronavirus outside a bubble system. The latter has become a concern as the KHL is suddenly enduring a COVID-19 outbreak.
Alex Alexeyev, the Capitals’ top defense prospect (with Martin Fehervary expected to join the big-league team next season), is currently playing for Salavat Yulaev of the KHL. On Tuesday, the team announced that three people on the team contracted COVID-19.
The official comment of the General Director of HC Salavat Yulaev Alexander Kurnosov: “After the trip to Kazan and Moscow, the team and staff of HC Salavat Yulaev conducted routine tests for coronavirus infection. Head coach of the Yulaevites Tomi Lamsa, and forwards Markus Granlund and Danil Bashkirov, showed a primary positive result. The coach and players will undergo additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. Everybody feels normal, no symptoms are observed. Lamsa, Granlund, and Bashkirov are now isolated. The coaching staff, temporarily headed by Viktor Kozlov, continues to work on preparations for the match against Sochi.
Alexeyev was not one of those players, but it’s still a concerning development.
Several other KHL teams have had outbreaks of their own per Full Press Hockey’s Aivis Kalnins. In his story A COVID-19 Disaster In The KHL, Kalnins writes that the league has “run into COVID-19 issues due to arrogance and lack of safety measures.”
A quick summary:
— Gillian Kemmerer (@gilliankemmerer) September 23, 2020
D Arseny Koromyslov making his #KHL debut today at 16 years old — he’s SKA’s youngest player in the KHL era (SKA have had a number of positive COVID tests in the past week, and are running a very young roster again today). https://t.co/eXxG75KcrA
— Patrick C (@ChunkletsHockey) September 23, 2020
The KHL has responded to the outbreak by urging organizations, like Dinamo Riga, to call up its junior team when its big-league squad is forced to quarantine, per sportacentrs.com.
While the immediate dangers of contracting COVID-19 are well documented, the longterm effects of the disease are still being learned.
As the pandemic unfolds, we are learning that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19 and there are many ways the infection can affect someone’s health.
One of the health effects that CDC is closely watching and working to understand relates to COVID-19 and the heart. Heart conditions associated with COVID-19 include inflammation and damage to the heart muscle itself, known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the covering of the heart, known as pericarditis. These conditions can occur by themselves or in combination. Heart damage may be an important part of severe disease and death from COVID-19, especially in older people with underlying illness. Heart damage like this might also explain some frequently reported long-term symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, and heart palpitations.
The risk of heart damage may not be limited to older and middle-aged adults. For example, young adults with COVID-19, including athletes, can also suffer from myocarditis. Severe heart damage has occurred in young, healthy people, but is rare.
When asked if the Capitals were considering taking Alexeyev or Protas out of the KHL, a team representative said there was nothing to announce.
“Our medical staff has been in touch and are in regular communication with all our players and prospects, and there are no other updates at this time,” the Caps rep said.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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