February 27, 2017 By Paul Gackle

Sharks Believe Double Dose Vaccinations in 2014 Will Keep Team Mumps Free

SAN JOSE — No one could fault head coach Peter DeBoer if he’d poured himself a stiff drink or two after the Sharks returned from Vancouver on Sunday.

After playing deep into the spring last season and then having the summers of several key players cut even shorter by the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the Sharks entered their mandated five-day bye last week in an ideal position, leading the Pacific Division by five points.

But the Sharks ran into some hard luck on Saturday, coming out of the bye week to face a team, the Vancouver Canucks, who quarantined five players over the weekend suspected of being infected by the mumps.

To make matters worse, the Sharks discovered on Sunday that defenseman Ben Hutton, who logged 22:58 of ice time for the Canucks during Saturday’s game, is now displaying mumps symptoms, too.

Regardless, DeBoer insists he isn’t worried about the unfortunate twist of fate being thrown his team’s way.

“You look at the glass half fun, and say, hey, we caught a team with the mumps and they were short and we won a game,” DeBoer said. “If we end up getting the mumps, then it’s a different story.”

“We were there, we dealt with it, and if it happens, we’ll deal with it. But I’m not going to lose sleep over it because there’s nothing we can do.”

A major reason why DeBoer isn’t losing sleep over the Canucks recent outbreak is the fact that all but one of the players who suited up for the Sharks on Saturday received double-dose shots of the mumps vaccination when the virus swept through the NHL in 2014, impacting six teams and two officials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mumps vaccine is 88 percent effective when patients receive two doses, lowering the Sharks chances of being infected by the Canucks on Saturday.

The one player in Saturday’s lineup who didn’t receive a double-dose vaccination back in 2014, likely rookie Kevin Labanc, is slated to receive a shot in the near future

“We got a double dose last time and they last for a few years,” defenseman Justin Braun said. “They’re talking about giving us some boosters here coming up, too, so we should be alright.”

DeBoer said the Sharks training staff believes the team is in “good shape” because of the 2014 vaccinations.

“But that doesn’t guarantee you that you won’t get it,” he said.

The league’s 2014 mumps epidemic shows just how swift and quickly the virus can spread in a high-contact sport like hockey.

Mumps is spread through saliva, mucus and sweat, so it isn’t entirely surprising that after members of the Anaheim Ducks started displaying signs of the virus in 2014, the Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins reported cases soon after.

A total of 23 players, a referee and a linesman caught the mumps in 2014, including Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Ducks superstar Corey Perry and Wild defenseman Ryan Suter.

The mumps is a particularly insidious virus because symptoms don’t display themselves until 12 to 25 days after infection, so the Sharks won’t know whether they’re completely out of the clear until the end of March.

The last thing the Sharks want to deal with on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs is a virus sweeping through the locker room that would force them to quarantine players for seven to 10 days, the amount of time it takes a mumps case to run its course.

But Braun said the depth in the organization with the Barracuda would help the team absorb any losses related to the mumps.

“That would be bad, but it happens. You’ve got to deal with it,” he said. “The ‘Cuda seem to be playing well, so those guys can come up and hop right into it. What are they, 14 in a row? You hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, we have the players to deal with it.”

Although the Sharks will be playing the wait-and-see game over the next few weeks, DeBoer said he and the team won’t be sitting on pins and needles.

“You can only control what you control. I can’t control that, so I don’t waste a lot of time on it,” he said. “You just cross your fingers and hope that nothing happened.”