Flyers

Irritated Provorov vents his frustration with NHL's COVID-19 process

Flyers

For the first time in his professional hockey career, Ivan Provorov had to sit out.

Not just one game, but three in a row.

And the reason why has been eating at him.

Eight days ago, Provorov entered the NHL's COVID protocol. Prior to missing the Flyers' last three games, the defenseman had played in 403 consecutive games since coming into the league as a 19-year-old. Provorov will celebrate his 25th birthday Thursday by jumping back into the Flyers' lineup against the Bruins at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET/ESPN).

Following practice Wednesday, Provorov pointedly expressed his frustration with the league's COVID protocol.

He believes it has to change.

A player who is fully vaccinated must isolate for five days if he tests positive for the coronavirus. If the player has no symptoms or his symptoms are resolving, they're permitted to return following five days as long as they have a negative lab-based RT-PCR test and the requirements adhere with local health laws.

Provorov was transparent with his irritation over watching the last three games in which his team went 0-2-1.

"I don't think there's a way to keep your mind off of it. You're sitting at home and your team's playing," Provorov said. "Is it tough? Yeah, you're willing to play through anything — any injury, any illness. Then here, you get maybe a regular flu, not even, and then somebody tells you you can't come back when you feel fine. Especially when you're trying to go out there and help your team win and take pride in that.

 

"If it's a broken bone or a broken leg or something like that, then at least you can say, 'OK, yeah, I can't play through that and I can live with that.' But if it's just a flu that has 99.9 percent survival rate, then everyone should play. Because when other teams play against us with the stomach flu, for some reason they're not canceling games. So why are they not letting us play or canceling games now?

"I don't know. Something's got to change and hopefully it's going to change soon."

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The NHL is in its third season impacted by the pandemic. There have been postponements and COVID-related absences across the league.

General manager Chuck Fletcher announced before the season that the Flyers were fully vaccinated.

"Eventually you're going to have to get over it," Provorov said. "You can't live in fear all the time. You can't trap yourself. If you keep trapping yourself, your immune system's going to go down naturally. We've got to find a way to get over this and live a normal life, get back to what it was two years ago."

Like Provorov, Claude Giroux had to miss the last three games. Last season, the Flyers' captain saw an ironman streak of 328 consecutive games played brought to a halt because of COVID-19.

"Provy's kind of the same way as me, just wants to play all of the games and try to get some wins," Giroux said Tuesday. "I'm sure he wasn't too happy, but nothing you can do about it now. You've just got to move on, get healthy and get back on the ice."

NHL players have long been regarded for their toughness and playing through injuries. Nick Seeler, who missed a pair of games because of the virus, said he could understand if there's frustration from players who enter COVID protocol.

"Absolutely," Seeler said last Saturday. "Me personally, I would have played in a heartbeat. When I tested positive, I was obviously very frustrated because I knew I was going to have to miss at least two games. Thankfully I'm able to play tonight.

"But I think that goes for pretty much every guy who gets it is going to be frustrated. Especially if you're asymptomatic and you test positive and you have to sit out three games or so, it's tough. Control what you can and go through the NHL protocol. That's what we're doing, the guys who have it."

Provorov is not the only Flyer bothered by the current circumstances. Others have voiced their frustration, some subtly and others not-so subtly. The overall matter has very likely been a prevalent conversation between the players.

 

"It's tough, for sure," Carter Hart said just over a week ago. "Guys are testing positive with no symptoms or mild symptoms. I mean, the league's got to find a way to change that. We're either going to keep playing shorthanded all season long or games are going to keep getting postponed. I think it's a joke. It's got to change."

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