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Thomas Casey says he and his Charlottetown Islanders teammates are grateful they will get to play hockey again this winter and they will do everything possible to keep Prince Edward Island safe.
“We all have families and billet families that we’re really close with, so the last thing we want to do is (bring) the virus back,” Casey said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’re going to stick to the plan that public health is giving us and we’re going to make sure that we don't make any mistakes and we’re keeping the Island safe.”
Casey is a 20-year-old Charlottetown native who has played the past three seasons with the Islanders. He’s in the final year of his junior eligibility and wants to see the season through to its last game after having 2019-20 season halted and the playoffs cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We love hockey, it’s our passion and we’re going to make sure that we play hard for P.E.I. and show that they didn't make a mistake giving us this opportunity,” Casey said.
Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team could apply to work-isolate in order to travel to Nova Scotia to play.
The team is preparing to travel to Sydney, N.S., on Friday to play the Cape Breton Eagles. They will return to Charlottetown after the game and then head to Halifax Sunday to play the Mooseheads. The Isles host Halifax on Wednesday at the Eastlink Centre where only 200 people are permitted to attend.
Head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said this week’s announcements were a huge boost for the team after not playing since Nov. 18.
While returning to game action will bring a sense of normalcy for the team, there are other restrictions that come with work-isolating. Players will be self-isolating when not practising or playing games, which means they won’t be able to go to restaurants or hang out with friends.
“There’s a huge price to be paid for starting to play,” Hulton said. “We’ve had numerous discussions on the restrictions around work-isolation, but we also know that we’re very lucky to be playing. … (The players are) willing to do whatever it takes.”
Keiran Gallant, an 18-year-old forward from Covehead in his second season with the Isles, said Tuesday’s news was exciting, even if it comes with some restrictions.
“They’re put in place for a good reason – to keep everybody safe,” he said.
“We’re all here for one reason – to try and win the (President) Cup and we all have that goal in mind,” he added. “We’ll do what we have to, to make sure we can keep playing.”
The team is aware that the decision to return to play has met with mixed reviews on social media.
“We're completely understanding of some frustration,” said Casey. “This is our work and it’s the work of everybody in the organization."
Captain Brett Budgell said public health has done a great job in letting everyone on the team know what is expected of them..
“They’ve laid out the rules really clearly to us, and we’re going to follow those rules to a T,” he said. “Everyone in this (locker) room, all we love to do is play hockey, and we’re willing to do anything we can to get back on that ice.”