Swine flu is seeping into NHL locker rooms, and the Washington Capitals are now on the list of the teams dealing with the virus.
Forward Quintin Laing was sent home before the team’s morning skate Tuesday, and a team spokesman revealed Wednesday that Laing has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.
“He’s currently at home being treated and is isolated,” team spokesman Nate Ewell said. “No one else on the team is currently showing any symptoms. The proper terminology is that he was diagnosed but not tested. He was tested for the seasonal flu. That turned up negative, but he was showing symptoms for H1N1, so he’s being treated as such.”
Laing was not tested for swine flu, but Ewell said that is common practice because the test is costly. Reports of two other NHL players, Doug Weight of the New York Islanders and Mike Commodore of the Columbus Blue Jackets, having swine flu also came to light Wednesday and brought the number of known cases in the league to five.
There was no official timetable for Laing’s return. Tyler Sloan, who is Laing’s roommate on the road, has been in contact with Laing’s wife, Aimee, and said Laing won’t be allowed to rejoin the team for at least five days from the time he got sick.
The Caps had a team meeting before practice Wednesday, and trainer Greg Smith detailed the necessary precautions for the other players. The team wants its players to wash their hands regularly, avoid shaking hands when possible and be cognizant of eating and sleeping properly.
“We’re taking all the precautions we can to be hygienic,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “I don’t think as a team we’re sitting here as a team panicking that other guys are going to get it. I think we just have to take care of ourselves, and if you get it, just take care of it.”
Sloan, who filled in for Laing on Tuesday against Philadelphia, is taking flu medication as a precaution but pronounced himself healthy Wednesday.
“I’m not too concerned or worried about it,” he said. “Everyone has been very careful. I’ve been pretty careful - washing my hands, drinking hot liquids, gargling with Listerine - anything to keep me clear.”
Some of the Caps know all too well that a teamwide bout with the flu can be a hazardous situation. The Caps got off to a surprising start during the 2006-07 season, but the flu made its way through the dressing room in December, and the team never recovered from the long losing streak that followed.
“It is tough because when we’re on the ice you have to be at a high level to compete and be quick and strong and just have the endurance that we work so hard to build up,” Pothier said. “That just comes in and wipes everything out. You have no strength, no stamina, no endurance - it sucks to be sick and play hockey. You’re just like a zombie on the ice.”