Blackhawks hoping to avoid the latest mumps outbreak in NHL

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Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks managed to avoid the mumps during the 2014-15 leaguewide outbreak. (AP Photo)

When she first heard that the mumps was back in the NHL, Brian Campbell’s wife, Lauren, did what just about everybody would do. She went on the Internet.

“Obviously, everybody got their booster shots back then,” Campbell said. “But my wife goes on Web MD all the time, and she said it only works 80 percent of the time. So who knows? I’m not a doctor.”

The mumps — which rampaged through the NHL during the 2014-15 season — has made a most unwelcome comeback, with the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild hit so far. Wild standouts Zach Parise and Jason Pominville were scratched from Minnesota’s game on Monday night and will be quarantined from their teammates for at least five days, meaning they’ll miss at least three games. During the 2014-15 outbreak, some players missed weeks, some missed only a day or two.

The Blackhawks made it through the last outbreak unscathed, and both Jonathan Toews and Joel Quenneville said they were hoping to get lucky again. Because in the warm, moist, relatively gross environment of an NHL dressing room — not to mention all the blood, sweat and spit that flies in close quarters on the ice — there’s only so much you can do in terms of prevention.

After all, the Hawks were just in Minnesota last week

“You’ve got to really take care of yourself, get your sleep, get your rest — all the little things that a doctor would tell you to do,” Toews said. “Other than that, it’s just making sure you’re healthy and your immune system is strong. What else can you really do to control that? Hopefully, knock on wood, we scoot by this whole deal again.”

There are some practical precautions a team can take. During the 2014-15 outbreak, Campbell’s Florida Panthers — who also managed to avoid the mumps — supplied their own water bottles on the road, made sure each player had his own bottle, and treated them almost like baby bottles, sanitizing them a couple of times a day. Typically when a team is on the road, the home team provides the water bottles on the bench. And players usually aren’t very discerning about which bottle they drink from, grabbing whichever one is closest.

So it’s easy to see how the disease — a viral illness that usually causes a fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and the telltale swollen salivary glands — can spread so quickly throughout the league.

For now, the Hawks are shrugging it off, though Tanner Kero — who was safely in college during the last outbreak — said his first thought upon hearing the Wild had the mumps was that the Hawks were just there.

“It doesn’t make me nervous,” Campbell said. “You can’t really control it. I try to stay fairly clean, and our trainers do a good job of washing the gear a lot, too. Little things like that can help, but you can’t really control it.”

The flu has hit a few Hawks this season, and Corey Crawford missed Sunday’s game with an illness, and will back up Scott Darling on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins just so he gets a couple more days to regain his strength. Quenneville wasn’t certain if the Hawks all got MMR booster shots after the last outbreak, but said they’re doing whatever they can do stay healthy.

“We’re right on top of it,” Quenneville said. “We’re probably the only team in the league that travels with a doctor [Michael Terry] on the road full time. Whether it’s flus or colds or mumps or what have you, trying to be diligent on that is something the guys have done a really good job of. [We’re] trying to prevent an epidemic, where you get half the team out at the same time.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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