Nobody who plays for or works for the Moncton Wildcats has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.
But sickness and injuries have taken a severe toll on the club, leading to the cancellation of Sunday's game against the Montreal Juniors at Moncton Coliseum.
The Wildcats had only 11 players who were healthy enough to suit up. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League made the decision about 90 minutes before the scheduled 4 p.m. local time start.
"Following the recommendations of the Moncton Wildcats' medical staff and the chief medical officer of the QMJHL, Sylvain Boutet, the game will be rescheduled in order to preserve the health and the security of our players," said Marcel Patenaude, the league's vice-president of hockey operations.
Wildcats general manager Bill Schurman said a rescheduled date and ticketing information will be released this week.
"Because of the recent announcement that 100 NHL players are ill, because of all of the hype surrounding H1N1, this just adds fuel to the fire," he said. "We're trying to be respectful for that hype, but we're also trying to diminish it because nobody on our team has been diagnosed with H1N1.
"When you add up the players lost to injury and sickness, we just didn't have enough players to play a game today. We only had 11 players and the league minimum to have a game is 16."
Moncton's 25-man roster, the coaching staff and others on the hockey staff all received both the H1N1 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine on Friday. The Wildcats were missing three players to injury and 11 more to sickness Sunday.
"We thought when we had 19 players at practice on Saturday night that we would be OK to play this game, but a large number of players became very, very ill overnight," said Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn. "The number continued to grow as we approached noon (Sunday) so we talked to the league.
"The league's doctor, in consultation with our doctor, made the decision that it was best for the safety of the players on both teams that we cancel this game. We tried hard to call up affiliate players, but our affiliates were either injured or playing with their team."
The Wildcats have cancelled practice Monday and Tuesday and told their players to stay away from the rink.
"We want the players to lay low as best they can," said Flynn. "We'll be in touch with our players on a daily basis and hopefully we can get this back under control. As a group, we spend so much time together whether it's in the dressing room, in the gym, on the bus, in meetings and in the classroom at school.
"That's one of the big concerns we have. We knew that if someone got sick, it could spread easily inside our team and it looks like that's what's happening."
Moncton had just one goaltender, four defencemen and six forwards who were healthy enough to play yesterday. Are the 11 sick players experiencing a reaction from the H1N1 vaccine or seasonal flu vaccine?
"A lot of it could be related," said Wildcats athletic therapist Guy Savoie. "It's a common side effect from any vaccination, especially the H1N1. It's a stronger virus, although it's not a live virus, like some of the vaccines are.
"Some of these side effects can last in your body up to 48 hours after taking the H1N1 vaccine. If they don't get seriously better within 48 hours, then you have to start to wonder if it's H1N1 related or if it's only a side effect of the vaccination. I want to stress that nobody on this team has been diagnosed with H1N1."
The Wildcats are scheduled to return to action against the visiting Val d'Or Foreurs on Thursday.
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