As New Brunswick reverts back to the orange phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan, the Fredericton Red Wings season is now on pause. Since the announcement on Jan. 5, all Red Wings games have been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The orange phase doesn’t permit games with other teams, but Red Wings players can still practice together. Brian Casey, the team’s head coach, said besides ice time limits and contact restrictions, team operations have been mostly the same.
“We’re hoping that this month, we can get back at some point,” said Casey. “It’s business as usual throughout our practice and our players are continuing their off-ice workouts.”
This season was the second in the Red Wings’ existence. In 13 games played, they won five games, lost seven and lost one in overtime. The Red Wings are third in their division and ranked ninth in the Maritime Hockey League.
During this twilight zone of practices and no games, Casey said he is looking to keep the players mentally engaged. He said one of his main focuses for the team was physical conditioning.
“If we’re extremely fit, the other stuff is just everyday stuff that we have to work on and execute,” said Casey. “The most important area we got to check off is our conditioning and our ability to sustain our work ethic through 60 minutes.”
This season began with lots of player transactions, adding new faces to the roster. But as games were underway, the Red Wings were plagued with injuries, including multiple defencemen. Some injuries included Justin Lush, who suffered a knee injury and a concussion.
He said the team is not yet satisfied with where they are in the first half of the season. Still, Casey said he’s fortunate the team is back playing hockey this season.
“There’s a lot of leagues across this country that don’t have that chance [to play,]” said Casey.
The Red Wings have played all of their games so far inside the province. The league realigned the divisions by province to avoid inter-provincial travel. Two divisions went to New Brunswick teams, with the other two going to Nova Scotia.
All of the Red Wings players stayed in the province over the holidays due to self-isolation restrictions for out-of-province players. They also had a game scheduled for Dec. 29, where they lost to Edmundston. Due to travel restrictions and team schedules, Declan MacEachern, Red Wings forward, couldn’t go home for the holidays.
“It was definitely really tough,” said MacEachern. “I think the idea of it is just as tough as actually doing it.”
During the holidays, he and some teammates who were also away from home, rented an Airbnb to celebrate Christmas. MacEachern said they did a secret Santa and hung out to boost morale.
MacEachern is originally from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He’s in his second year with the team. During the first half of the season, he scored three goals and five assists. He said on the ice, he doesn’t think about COVID-19 but that thinking changes when the week is over.
“It’s like ‘okay, is this the week I might get shut down?’” said MacEachern. “That’s definitely a little extra anxiety on us as players.”