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Sweeney: ‘Vast Majority of Bruins Players Have Mild Symptoms’

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The Boston Bruins shut things down this weekend with the news that Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar had been the latest to be placed on the COVID protocol list, upping the total number to nine members of the B’s normal NHL roster. The bad news it that means Hall and Lazar may not be available when the B’s resume activity on Dec. 27 following the Christmas break, and the B’s may continue to have to grind through things for another week or two afterward.

The good news is the vast majority of Boston Bruins players have been either asymptomatic or experienced very mild symptoms like those associated with a head cold, according to Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney.

“The vast majority of the players have had some mild symptoms. Some have had zero. One player had a day where he felt a little more under the weather than he had previously, so I would call that moderate,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “The two staff members are doing okay, they might have moderate [symptoms]. But for the most part everybody is doing relatively well and trending in the right direction.”

As Sweeney mentioned, there was one Bruins player that experienced moderate symptoms, but others like Brad Marchand and Craig Smith felt totally find and otherwise would have been able to suit up and play if not for the protocols. It opens up the door to questions that all four of the major sports are asking about whether asymptomatic, vaccinated players should be allowed to continue playing even if they have tested positive for COVID.

Currently that’s not the case in any of pro sports leagues, and Sweeney wasn’t about open that Pandora’s Box while noting that the Bruins aren’t very high percentage in terms of players that have taken the COVID vaccine booster shot. But there’s very clearly some growing frustration amidst the NHL player ranks that those asymptomatic, vaccinated players that are COVID positive aren’t simply being allowed to play at this point in time.

“How do you navigate and what are the risks and circumstances that lead us to where we are? It’s just a matter of trying to adjust on the fly to some degree with the health of the players and the staff is foremost [in importance],” said Sweeney. “The protocols were put in place based on previous experiences and examples, and certainly a cardiac screening associated with that. I think we are seeing an evolvement in certain sports and how they are handling a return to play.

“Whether it’s testing or those symptomatic, or what the course of the spread is, all of these variables are being put in play for the medical people to make the best decisions associated with it. Will it continue to change and evolve? I believe it may, but it’s going to be based on the medical advice based on the conjunction with the knowledge of how healthy, fully vaccinated people do react to different variants [of COVID]. I think it’s a moving target and the medical people are doing the best job that they can.”

It feels like things aren’t going to change this season as a handful of NHL teams have been temporarily shut down due to COVID outbreaks, and the league still mulls over what it’s going to do about the Olympic break in February. The most important thing, however, is that it sounds like the B’s are weathering this COVID outbreak in the best way possible health-wise as they ready to start up the engine again after the holidays.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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