Canmore Eagles junior hockey team reports 16 positive COVID cases, more in family contacts

The Canmore Eagles of the Alberta Junior Hockey League have 16 confirmed COVID cases while other teams also have cases. All games are suspended due to provincial restrictions.

'You can see how fast it moves and how quickly it gets from one guy to the next,' says coach

The AJHL Canmore Eagles have had 16 positive COVID cases after a player initially felt sick two weeks ago after playing a game in Drumheller. (Submitted by Andrew Milne)

It was mid-game on Nov. 14 when a player on the Canmore Eagles began feeling sick, says their coach and general manager, Andrew Milne.

The Eagles were playing the Drumheller Dragons, a rival Alberta Junior Hockey League team, at the Drumheller Memorial Arena.

Back on the bus with the team after the game, that player expressed "feeling a bit weak," said Milne. "We just played two games, our first two games in a while. So we thought maybe a little bit had to do with that."

It was about an hour and a half after that the player's sickness intensified, the coach said.

"We saw that he got right off the bus and into his car, and it was isolation and isolating in his bedroom ever since," Milne said Friday on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Andrew Milne, head coach and general manger of the Canmore Eagles, says everyone on the Junior A team was tested after the first positive case and 'it was evident that we had a massive outbreak in our club.' (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Milne said the team took the next day off, while monitoring teammates for symptoms. By Nov. 17, six members had some COVID-19 symptoms. They began isolating, but the remaining members met for a practice.

On the morning of Nov. 19, they learned that the player who first felt sick in Drumheller had tested positive. That's when everyone on the team was told to immediately self-isolate.

All but two players were billeted in the Canmore area, said Milne, so the majority of them isolated in their billet households. Two other members of the team isolated at home.

"We tested everybody, And that's when obviously the number started climbing. And, you know, it was evident that we had a massive outbreak in our club."

Now, 16 players and staff on the team have tested positive, according to Milne, and he is one of the positive cases.

"I think part of the reason for the large numbers was the fact that we were just on a bus and there was very limited ability for us to move about in some recycled air," said Milne.

That number doesn't include the families connected to the team that were affected, including Milne's family.

Milne said the billet families have been "phenomenal" to work with, though this outbreak has caused some "disruption."

"There was a lot of disruption to their families, but that's not what they signed up for."

Milne said the team stuck to their bubble for social gatherings, practices and travel.

"It's amazing how fast the web can unwind and get going," he said. "You can see how fast it moves and how quickly it gets from one guy to the next."

COVID cases on AJHL teams

The Canmore Eagles reported their first COVID-19 case on Nov. 19 via their team website.

Other teams within the AJHL have reported cases: 

  • Calgary Canucks reported a positive case on Nov. 20.
  • Drumheller Dragons reported a positive case on Nov. 21.
  • Okotoks Oilers reported a positive case on Nov. 22.

All announcements were made via team websites and citing privacy reasons said no more details would be provided.

CBC News reached out to the coaches of the Drumheller Dragons and the Calgary Canucks but did not receive further comment.

The AJHL season is currently suspended due to provincial restrictions. The AJHL board of governors intends to meet on Dec. 19 to determine next steps, according to a statement from AJHL commisioner Ryan Bartoshyk.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.