It was a microcosm of what's so great about Jakub Voracek.
During a video interview via Webex, his honesty and realness were on full display. Those qualities are also known as no bulls--t, and that sums up the Flyers' 30-year-old winger, who is friendly but never ambiguous in his thoughts. The transparency is appreciated.
As he leaned back in his chair Sunday with his hand behind his head, Voracek knew the questions were coming. That didn't make them any less frustrating but they had to be asked. Voracek was "unable to participate" Saturday in the Flyers' first scrimmage of training camp. Because of a mutual agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to respect an individual player's right to medical privacy, teams are not allowed to release specifications for any injuries/illnesses during camp or the return-to-play 24-team tournament.
Voracek had skated in all of the previous four on-ice days of camp, so his sudden absence Saturday was undeniably puzzling and, per the rules, without answers. Although there were no valid reasons or signs to cause alarms (see story), Voracek's absence could have been because of anything.
When Voracek hit the practice ice Sunday, it was noteworthy. Everyone with an interest in his status could now relax. Voracek wished no one ever got bent out of shape to begin with over his status.
Jakub Voracek here at practice. Good sign. He was “unable to participate” in scrimmage Saturday. pic.twitter.com/MEIZGmXqfZ— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 19, 2020
"I feel good," Voracek said. "Why are you asking? You guys panic so much it's not even funny, holy f---. You guys are making it sound like I’m dying or something. Everything’s fine.”
It's hard to fault Voracek's frustration. Expectedly, speculation and concern bubbled. I mean, we live in the days of the internet and social media, where immediacy is craved, panic is normal and perspective is abnormal. Turns out, Voracek was MIA because his COVID-19 test Friday was delayed and came back inconclusive, "so they couldn’t tell if it was negative or positive," he said.
Per the league's Phase 3 protocol, Voracek could not participate Saturday:
Results on testing must be available within twenty-four (24) hours.
For individuals whose results are not received within twenty-four (24) hours, such persons shall not utilize club training facilities until results are available and indicate a negative testing result.
Voracek took another test Saturday and it eventually came back negative, allowing him to get right back out there Sunday.
"There was nothing wrong," Voracek said. "Everything's all right.
“I was kind of pissed I missed the scrimmage [Saturday] because the more scrimmages you can get in, it’s better. It is what it is. There’s nothing I could do about it.”
While it's hard to fault Voracek for his impatience with the panic (especially with the frustration over a testing mishap), it's also hard to fault those for seeking answers. Philly is passionate, even obsessive, about its sports. Quelling its rabidness is an impossible task. Fans are invested in the team, they support the team, they put money into the team, and this Flyers team has a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup run. Voracek is an important player to those chances and he was out Saturday for unknown reasons.
There are two sides of the coin to the new protocol. One's medical privacy is 100 percent absolutely important but not being able to disclose anything about the most harmless of absences will inevitably fuel speculation.
"In some kind of way you want to protect the player’s privacy, right?" Voracek said. "Say if you get [the coronavirus], not everyone has to know it. If you decide not to share it with everyone, that’s OK to keep it to yourself and close friends and family. That’s what’s wrong with this world today — everyone seems entitled to know everything about each other. It’s not a bad thing to have some privacy sometimes. I mean, do you know all the cases every day that are diagnosed? Do you know all the people and everything about them? No, somebody wants to keep it quiet. If you guys want to ask me what happened, you can ask me, I’ll tell you, I don’t care. You don’t have to dance around it.”
Voracek explained. He's fine. Now everyone knows.
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