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‘It definitely takes a [mental] toll on you’: A look back at the Flyers’ COVID-19 shutdown

With the removal of Travis Konecny, Sunday was the first day since Feb. 6 the Flyers did not have any players on the protocol list. Let's see how long that remains the case.

Justin Braun, one of nine Flyers who've spent time on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list, said of the disease, “when you’re in it, you can kind of see how it can go from bad to worse pretty quick."
Justin Braun, one of nine Flyers who've spent time on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list, said of the disease, “when you’re in it, you can kind of see how it can go from bad to worse pretty quick."Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The symptoms were bad, but the isolation was worse. Claude Giroux and Justin Braun had it harder than most.

The Flyers’ COVID-19 outbreak started on Super Bowl Sunday when Travis Sanheim popped up on the protocol list. Two days later, Giroux and Braun were added and the team’s game that night in Washington was postponed.

Most of the players and staff bused back to Philadelphia for a week of sitting, waiting and constant testing. Giroux was among those who had to stay in D.C. with nothing but his phone, his thoughts and his symptoms.

“For a few days there,” he said. “I had it pretty bad.”

Giroux was still in Washington when his wife Ryanne announced on Twitter:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

We’re expecting

Baby Boy Number Two

Giroux didn’t specify his ailment, but some of his teammates did. Most seem to have had the same symptoms: headaches, chills, and other flu-like symptoms.

Shayne Gostisbehere was the first Flyer to be quarantined in mid-January.

“I really didn’t do much for two weeks to be honest,” Gostisbehere said. “I was in my house the whole time. Thankfully, I’ve got a great fiancée to take care of me. I didn’t have to go through it alone.”

The timing was unfortunate for Gostisbehere who, after an uneven season a year ago, had a strong training camp and was going to start this season on the top defensive pairing. Instead, he missed the first six games.

He returned to the lineup Jan. 26 and is skating with Ivan Provorov on the No. 1 unit. He has four points in 12 games and is plus-7.

“When you’re going through COVID protocol and you’re not able to be around the rink ... it definitely takes a [mental] toll on you.”

Scott Laughton, who was quarantined for 17 days

Among the other defensemen, Sanheim did not have coronavirus complications, but Braun sure did.

“It gets a little worrisome as more and more symptoms are coming on,” he explained. “Thankfully they topped out not so badly for me, but you could see how it goes. It gets bad quick.”

» READ MORE: Flyers ‘unleash the Brauner’ and beat Sabres

Braun also was quarantined in Washington (for 11 days), which in some ways he thinks was a blessing. He said being apart from his family gave him peace of mind that he wasn’t passing along the disease to loved ones.

“When you’re in it, you can kind of see how it can go from bad to worse pretty quick,” Braun said. “When those symptoms are kind of kicking in, you don’t really know when it’s going to kind of taper off or when it’s going to be at the peak.”

Jake Voracek was quarantined for 14 days with no symptoms, using the video game Call of Duty and the Australian Open to occupy his time. Scott Laughton said he was confined for 17 days, and it was probably the longest 17 days of his life.

“I had some body aches and headaches and just fatigue that lasted about two days,” he said. “Then it was more about just staying in my room and making sure I didn’t get my girlfriend sick or anything like that.”

It was a long time away from the guys,” he continued, “so just to get back in the room and be part of the routine helps your mindset and everything. It gives you a boost of energy.”

» READ MORE: Flyers close to having fans back in the Wells Fargo Center

None of the Flyers reported having the terrible experience had by Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that he thought he could die.

“It felt like my heart was cracking as I walked up the stairs,” according to a Buffalo News translation. “A couple of evenings there were such conditions when I went to bed that I didn’t know if I woke up here anymore in the morning.”

The Flyers are playing as well as they have all year, and have a three-game winning streak that started with Giroux’s return to the lineup. On Sunday, Travis Konecny became the last of the Flyers to come off the COVID-19 protocol list.

February’s disruption caused four games to be rescheduled and a few others to be shuffled. Thus, the Flyers over the weekend started a stretch of 29 games in 51 days.

They’ll spend the week in Pittsburgh for three games against the rival Penguins. They’ll still be sequestered in their hotel rooms, but at least they’ll be together at the rink. And you can bet FaceTime will be a huge presence.

“Any time you’re away from your family, it’s tough,” Giroux said. “My wife did a great job. She’s a rock star. The first time I saw [my son] Gavin again he was really happy ... And so was I.”

Flyers on the COVID-19 protocol list

Reasons for placement on the COVID-19 protocol list can range from contact tracing to actual diagnosis for the coronavirus. Players newly added to the list marked with an asterisk.

Jan. 13-20: *Shayne Gostisbehere.

Feb. 7-8: *Travis Sanheim.

Feb. 9-10: *Justin Braun, *Claude Giroux, Sanheim.

Feb. 11: *Morgan Frost, *Jake Voracek, Braun, Giroux, Sanheim.

Feb. 12-13: *Scott Laughton, *Oskar Lindblom, Braun, Frost, Giroux, Sanheim, Voracek.

Feb. 14-17: *Travis Konecny, Braun, Frost, Giroux, Laughton, Lindblom, Sanheim, Voracek.

Feb. 18: Frost, Sanheim removed from list.

Feb. 18-22: Braun, Giroux, Konecny, Laughton, Lindblom and Voracek remain on list.

Feb. 23: Giroux removed from list.

Feb. 24: Braun removed from list.

Feb. 25: Voracek removed from list.

Feb. 26: Laughton and Lindblom removed from list.

Feb. 28: Konecny removed from list.