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Jokerit game cancelled today after Coronavirus outbreak on another KHL team

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The start of the European hockey season isn’t going smoothly.

Kontinental Hockey League: Dynamo Moscow vs Jokerit Helsinki Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

NOTE: Jukurit is a team in the Finnish top-level league (Liiga). Jokerit is a team in Finland in the KHL. They aren’t related in any way but by a coincidence of spelling. Mikko Kokkonen is a Maple Leafs drafted prospect defender with Jukurit, Mikko Lehton is signed to the Maple Leafs as a free agent, and is a defenceman for Jokerit.

Jokerit’s KHL home game was cancelled today because of a Coronavirus outbreak on another team:

Official KHL statement about the postponement of a regular season game.

The Jokerit vs Ak Bars game, which was scheduled to take place on Friday, Sep. 11, is postponed.

On Sep. 10, it was announced that on arrival in Riga, seven representatives of Neftekhimik recorded positive results following obligatory express tests for SARS-CoV-2. Later, four of those cases were confirmed.

On Sep. 9, Neftekhimik played against Jokerit in Helsinki, meaning that the Finnish team is now part of Neftekhimik’s ‘contact group’. Jokerit’s players and staff must now undergo additional tests for coronavirus, meaning that it is impossible to play Friday’s game against Ak Bars.

Further details about the rearranged date for the game between Jokerit and Ak Bars will be announced in due course.

The game in Riga is also cancelled.

The KHL season began on September 2, and has seen Jokerit forfeit a game in Minsk over a dispute arising over how to handle playing in a city engulfed in protests and state-sponsored violence. Now Jokerit’s season is further disrupted, and questions will be raised in Finland about the safety of allowing Russian teams to travel into the country for games.

Finnish news reports today that some of the Jokerit players are quarantined. Finland is focused on hockey and the risk of players transmitting Coronavirus and getting COVID-19 because of the situation with Liiga club Jukurit, where 22 of the U20 players have tested positive in a case that has no known source.

Jukurit published an explainer which defines isolation and quarantine as used in Finland [Google translate]:

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine? Are the family members of the exposed or ill quarantined?

Infected are prescribed for isolation. In this case, do not move anywhere, but stay completely at home or in another place of isolation. You can only go out to go to the hospital or for a re-examination.

In quarantine, close contact with people outside the family must be avoided. You can go out, but you shouldn’t be in contact with other people.

If a quarantined person has a negative corona test, those living in the same household as him or her will not be quarantined. If a person is corona positive, those living in the same household as him or her are considered exposed, in which case they are quarantined.

Jukurit is in preseason, and none of their men’s team players are infected, but because of the shared facility, some of their preseason matches and training will be cancelled. They report that some of the junior players are showing symptoms, and HPK also has a small number of infections on their junior team. The club that most recently played against Jurkurit’s U20 team, KooKoo, has also tested everyone, and has some positive cases. The junior and men’s team players are in quarantine today. The Liiga season is set to start on October 1.

Finnish news reports that Jokerit’s next four KHL games are also postponed through to September 21. Neftekhimik played in Helsinki before any positive tests had been received (the 6-0 blowout where Lehtonen features in a lot of highlights), and the cascade effect of their contacts having to quarantine will play havoc with the schedule. Three countries, and three separate sets of rules are involved: Finland, Latvia and Russia, and that will also play a role in how this will be handled.

European hockey has barely started, and many NHL fans are happy to see their teams’ prospects and free agents getting in game action. It’s well past time to ask if the price is worth the benefits.