Canucks' Brandon Sutter opens up about struggle with long COVID

Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter has been battling long COVID symptoms since last April. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As COVID-19 ran rampant through the NHL last year, the Vancouver Canucks were hit especially hard and are still dealing with related absences.

Twenty-five Canucks players and staff members tested positive last April and the team was shut down for more than three weeks. Veteran forward Brandon Sutter was hit the hardest by the virus and still remains out of action due to long-lasting symptoms from his diagnosis a year ago.

On Tuesday, the 33-year-old opened up about his experience and trying to get back to full health.

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

Sutter played in eight games after returning from his bout with COVID last April, but was shut down for the final 11 games of the season. Last month, Sutter got back on to the ice with a few of his injured teammates for the first time since December. When asked about how he is progressing, Sutter wanted to stress that there are good and bad days.

“Peaks and valleys is definitely the biggest one,” he said. “I kind of thought I was getting better after Christmas and started training again, started skating again, kind of optimistic about returning at some point this season. When I started skating more and ramping up my training – the level you have to be at to be an athlete in this league – it just went backwards a little bit.

“I’m always hopeful to get back as soon as I can and doing all we can to correct it. It’s just been dealing with immune system stuff, which a lot of people who are going through it at home too, have had what they’re calling ‘long COVID’ stuff. It’s not a lot of fun.”

Through it all, Sutter has remained positive that he will eventually return to the ice after spending all year watching from the press box as his team made an admirable playoff push in the second half of the season.

“Being out all year like this, watching the guys, is tough,” Sutter said. “I want to get back as soon as I can. … You’re just waiting for answers. You break a bone, you have a broken leg or a knee problem, or a shoulder or something, you go ‘OK, we got six weeks, we got eight weeks, we got 10 weeks, and we’re back to normal.’ This has just been dragging on and dragging on.”

Sutter is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer after signing a one-year, $1.125M deal with the Canucks last July. The centre has played in Vancouver since the 2015-16 season and has appeared in 770 NHL games over 13 years between the Canucks, Penguins and Hurricanes.

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