Jets’ Copp rarin’ to go, but COVID restrictions put crimp in plans

Andrew Copp isn’t considering a return to Manitoba any time soon.

The Jets winger, currently at his home in Michigan, wants to begin skating but would need to quarantine at his Winnipeg apartment for two weeks before hitting the ice.

And while he understands why the health directive is in place, it’s time he can’t afford to waste.

“I’ve been staying in shape, I’ve worked so hard to continue to train and try to do the best I can with what’s at my disposal. I feel that would go out the window if I was just sitting in my apartment for two weeks,” he said Wednesday, in a video chat with reporters.

“The two-week quarantine the Canadian government has in right now will pretty much deter me from coming back until the start of training camp or until that gets lifted. I think in the next week or two I might head down to Florida and start skating again because I need to be on the ice.”

The NHL released details of its return-to-play protocol Tuesday and is moving into Phase 2, which includes the opening of practice rinks and allowing small, voluntary group workouts on and off the ice. But players travelling into Canada would have to isolate for 14 days as a precaution, owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, before taking part in those workouts.

Copp said he’s on board with the NHL’s plans, including a 24-team playoff format. The Jets would face the Calgary Flames in a best-of-five preliminary series, with the winner advancing.

The NHL has proposed the start of training camps in July and a possible late July or early August start to the post-season. Regular testing of NHL players is part of the protocol, something Copp, 25, isn’t crazy about but supports.

“I have not been tested. I have heard it’s kind of painful. So, I don’t know if I’m looking forward to doing that every day or two days, or whatever it is. It’s going to be something that’s probably necessary for us to play,” he said.

“Obviously, health and safety is at the forefront of all the issues. So, if we can find a way to be as healthy and safe as possible and be able to play some hockey and play in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup, you’re going to want to take that opportunity. But at the same time you don’t want to be having health issues for any guy or any coach or trainer or whatever it is. You want to make sure we’re doing all the right things in that aspect, and, hopefully, that leads to a healthy playoff and a healthy NHL as a whole.”

Copp, in his fifth full season with Winnipeg, was having his finest year as a pro when the 2019-20 season came to an abrupt end March 12. He scored 10 goals (one off his career best) and had 26 points (two shy of his career best), and the Jets still had 11 games left on the slate.

The Jets’ fourth-round draft pick in 2013 is in the first year of a two-year contract that carries an annual cap hit of US$2.28 million.

Copp is intrigued by a Jets-Flames series.

“It’ll be a great series. They have some very high-end skill players at the top of their lineup and they have some fantastic defencemen. (Flames goalie David) Rittich’s been really solid in net. I feel like it’s a pretty even series,” he said.

When the NHL paused its season on March 12, Winnipeg had won four straight games and was 37-28-6, and still had two games left against Calgary in the final three weeks.

The Jets were ninth in the Western Conference with a winning percentage of .563, a faction of a point below the Flames (36-27-7, .564). They’ll play at a hub city that has yet to be determined.

“I feel like we were playing them twice in the last eight, nine, 10 games of the regular season anyway, so basically the winners of those two games were going to have a real upper hand in making the 16-team playoff, so this is a perfect way for us to just decide it,” said Copp. “I know they have an elite power play and an elite top two lines, so we’re going to have to be ready to play them hard. I’m sure our offensive guns will be ready to go.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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