"It's been a tough few months": Sutter still battling COVID after lost Canucks season

Apr 27 2022, 11:50 pm

It’s been nearly a full calendar year since Brandon Sutter last played an NHL game.

The 33-year-old Vancouver Canucks centre hasn’t suited up since May 1, 2021, and won’t appear in a single game this season, due to the effects of long COVID.

Sutter spoke publicly for the first time this season with Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, opening up about the struggles that threaten to prematurely end his professional hockey career.

While he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to play in the NHL again, Sutter admitted that he has been optimistic at various points throughout the past few months, only to suffer setbacks.

Sutter was one of the members of the Canucks that contracted the Gamma variant of COVID-19 last March before vaccines were widely available in Canada. No team in North American pro sports was hit harder than the Canucks by COVID-19 and no player was hit harder on his team than Sutter.

“It’s definitely been a long year. Been a tough few months for sure,” Sutter said. “As a team, last year we got the COVID thing, since then, I just haven’t felt quite like myself. Really had a rough patch back in the fall time when I was trying to prepare for the season. It just hasn’t seemed to kick back into gear yet. It’s definitely been a struggle of a winter. Kind of getting optimistic, and working with the right people, and doing all we can to try to figure it out.”

Sutter did play eight games after the outbreak last season and signed a one-year contract with Vancouver in the summer.

But he says there have been peaks and valleys to his recovery.

“It was the middle of August and we had our third baby and I was really starting to go backward [health-wise]. It was a tough few months,” Sutter explained, adding that at least in terms of his quality of life, he’s starting to get “over the hump.”

By December, Sutter was optimistic that he would be able to play again this season and began training and skating. But when he ramped up the intensity of his training regimen, he “went backward a little bit.”

Sutter didn’t touch the ice in March, explaining that he had “bad days” and clearly the rest of the season is lost as well.

“It’s not a lot of fun and we’re trying to figure it out. It’s a grind.”

A member of the Canucks organization since 2015, Sutter’s future is uncertain. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent this summer and it’s hard to imagine any team giving him a guaranteed contract until he proves that he’s healthy enough to play.

His goal is to play again, as soon as he can.

For a player that was criticized heavily for much of his time in Vancouver, I can say with certainty that there isn’t a Canucks fan not cheering him on right now to get back to where he belongs: on the ice in the NHL.

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