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The Vancouver Canucks center signed a one-year contract last summer and was supposed to be the team’s fourth-line center in 2021-22.

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Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter hasn’t suited up for a game all season because of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms.

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On Tuesday night, in an interview with Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, the personable center spoke publicly for the first time about his difficult battle with long COVID.

“It’s definitely been a struggle of a winter for sure,” Sutter said, his emotions evident just below the surface.

Though his symptoms have taken him over and through physical and emotional peaks and valleys, he’s feeling optimistic again.

“(I am) just starting to see and work with the right people and doing all we can to try to figure it out.”

Brandon Sutter, Thatcher Demko and Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks walk to the dressing room before their NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena October 15, 2019 in Vancouver.
Brandon Sutter, Thatcher Demko and Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks walk to the dressing room before their NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena October 15, 2019 in Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /PNG

Like most of his 2020-21 Vancouver Canucks teammates, Sutter came down with COVID-19 just over a year ago.

The Canucks’ outbreak came before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available in Canada, so his infection came full force.

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But he appeared to recover, just like his teammates did, and was able to suit up and finish out the season.

The storyline changed for him over the summer. Over the course of August, strange symptoms started to appear. Heightened heart rate, difficulty catching his breath.

“Like someone was sitting on my chest,” he relayed at one point during a press-box chat. He had stopped working out in early September, with the advice that rest was likely to be the best cure.

It became clear that he was dealing with long-COVID symptoms. The American Medical Association estimates that anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent of people who contract COVID-19 may experience such symptoms at some time after they recovered from their initial infection.

At one point in the fall, symptoms were making daily life a struggle. But by December, his symptoms had begun to subside. He started appearing at games, just to watch his team from him, who he hoped he would be able to rejoin.

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By January, he was summarizing light workouts. In March, he began skating with injured teammates.

But as Sutter revealed to Murphy on Tuesday, he hasn’t skated since early April.

“Thought I was getting better after Christmas and started training again, started skating again and was kind of optimistic about returning at some point this season. When I started skating more and ramping up my training to the level you’ve got to be an athlete in this league, I just kind of went backwards a little bit.”

Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter and Tyler Myers of the Vancouver Canucks get a temperature check before their NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena on April 18, 2021 in Vancouver.
Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter and Tyler Myers of the Vancouver Canucks get a temperature check before their NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena on April 18, 2021 in Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Image /NHLI via Getty Images

For the time being, Sutter is just hanging out, but hopeful for a return

“Doing all we can to try to correct it. And it’s just been dealing with immune system stuff, which a lot of people who are going through it at home, through that have had this what they’re calling ‘long COVID’ stuff. It’s not a lot of fun and we’re trying to, like I said, figure it out, but it’s a grind,” Sutter said.

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“You’re just waiting for answers. You break a bone, you have a broken leg or knee problem or shoulder or something, you go okay, we’ve got six weeks, we got eight weeks, we got 10 weeks and we’re back to normal. This has been dragging on but we’re getting there and hopefully hopefully soon we’ll get back at it.”

Thankfully his family is healthy. He and his wife Giselle welcomed a baby daughter last summer, their third child.

“At least you go home to your family and I’ve been able to be around or our baby girl and our other two kids the whole time, so it’s been a bit of a blessing,” Sutter said.


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