Unvaxxed Josh Archibald can only play Oilers games he can drive to

Mar 12 2022, 12:11 am

Edmonton Oilers forward Josh Archibald could be nearing a return for the Edmonton Oilers, but how much action he sees with the team could be up in the air. 

Archibald, who skated with the team Sunday for the first time since being diagnosed with the heart condition myocarditis in October and could return to game action against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, remains unvaccinated — limiting his ability to travel with the club.

“Obviously the quarantine and the flying is not an ideal situation right now,” Archibald said earlier this week. “Those are all management decisions, and it was a management decision to bring me back. I’m here to play hockey, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Archibald, who returned to Edmonton in February and completed a quarantine process, is limited by the travel restrictions Canada currently has in place for unvaccinated people both crossing the border and flying within it.

Currently, travellers “12 years of age plus four months, or older” need to be fully vaccinated in order to board “domestic or international flights departing from most airports in Canada, including charter and foreign airlines carrying commercial passengers,” according to current restrictions.

Those restrictions limit Archibald to games within driving distance, including games at Rogers Arena in Edmonton, and potentially the Oilers’ lone remaining road contest at the Calgary Flames on March 26. 

In total, Edmonton has 26 games remaining in the regular season, split between 14 home dates and 10 games on the road. The Oilers play a three-game, six-day road trip from April 2-7 and two two-game, four-day sets as part of the team’s final nine games of the regular season.

“There’s obviously both sides of the spectrum,” Archibald said. “It can go either way. I don’t disrespect anybody’s decision. Obviously its personal decisions for everybody. That was a personal decision my family and I thought was best for all of us going forward.

“I think our medical team, everybody did what we thought was best under the circumstances. For myself, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Obviously it was a real turn of events when I went home and wasn’t able to be here with everybody, but at the same time it was my decision and I’m going to live with it and I respect it and I hope everybody else can respect it, too.”

It was revealed that Archibald had COVID-19 over the summer when he was diagnosed with myocarditis in October.

He’s since recovered from myocarditis, allowing Archibald to potentially return to Edmonton’s lineup.

“I think on the medical side of things, I think it’s different for everybody and everybody handles it differently, whether I had full-blown myocarditis or just a really mild case, you never know,” he said. “Some doctors say one thing, some doctors say another. Where I am now and all the tests I’ve got done, I’m healthy. No foreseeable problems coming in the future, long term, nothing like that. It’s as if it’s never happened as of right now.”

Archibald, who had had 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and averaged 13:33 of ice time — sixth among all Oilers forwards — in 52 games last season, is cleared and ready to go. 

He skated in line rushes with Brad Malone and Zack Kassion on Friday, according to the team’s website, indicating he could be an option as soon as Saturday. 

“If anyone can do it, it’s Arch,” Kassian said. “He keeps himself in shape. He keeps care of himself. He’s in shape year-round. It’s not like he needs training camp to get in it. He’s had a good couple weeks here of skating, and I think his timing might be the one thing that might take a few games to get back, but if there’s a guy who can do it it’s definitely Arch. 

“I know he’s champing at the bit to get in. Hopefully he can get in. We can use him. He’s a great player. He has been a great player for us. He’d definitely give us a boost.”

Archibald joins the Oilers at a time when they need a strong push to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Edmonton currently sits fourth in the Pacific Division, two points back of the Vegas Golden Knights for third with one game at hand. The Oilers also trail the Dallas Stars by one point for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Dallas has played two fewer games. 

“When I got the good news I could start working out again, I was healthy and everything, it was kind of getting back into the swing of things, slowly start working out and skating and getting back at it,” Archibald said. “When I got to a point where they wanted me back here and contributing, I got back here as soon as possible to try to get back on the ice as soon as possible.

“It’s real nice to be back. It was a long road. I’m excited to be back and be a part of the team again.”

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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