Teams on defensive

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:29 AM ET

Two of Winnipeg's professional sports franchises are taking precautionary measures to keep the H1N1 flu virus out of their locker-rooms.

While concern has been running rampant with the spread of the pandemic, most members of the Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Blue Bombers are focusing on using common sense to combat the issue at hand.

"I don't think it's much different than a regular flu virus but you've got to take precautions because they say it's going to spread more easily," said Moose goalie Cory Schneider. "You have to be careful and you can't have guys hanging out if they're sick, but at the same time, just take the normal precautions.

Over-reacting

"We've had flu bugs go through teams before. Everyone is probably over-reacting but that's probably a good thing because you don't want it to get worse than it already is."

"This is something you have to take very seriously, it's something that could go through your hockey team like wild fire and it could hurt you for a long period of time," added Moose captain Mike Keane. "Wash your hands 10 times a day."

News that a 13-year-old boy from Toronto died of H1N1 recently struck a nerve with several Moose players, especially those with children of their own.

"Before they were saying that it's a virus and a little more than the common cold, but now we know that's not true," said Keane. "You have to take care of things and make sure you take the right steps."

"There's a lot of uncertainty with it, as individuals you have to do things to keep as clean as possible," added Moose forward Marty Murray. "The scary thing within a team is that it can spread quickly, but the training staff is doing a good job to make sure we're not sharing water bottles or towels or things like that."

While the number of cases in the NHL seems to be growing day-by-day, the Moose don't have any known cases of H1N1 so far.

Moose forward Eric Walsky missed yesterday's practice with the flu and had some blood work done, but Moose head coach Scott Arniel said that was more related to the fact Walsky also has asthma.

"It affects some people more than it does others and we don't know who those others are," said Arniel. "We've paid a little more attention to these things. There is some more caretaking.

"We got away from using towels on the bench. Anywhere the players go, whether it's on the (stationary) bikes or the weight equipment, everything gets wiped down. Hand sanitizers are always available for the guys to make sure they take care of themselves. We're trying to really nip this in the bud before it becomes a situation."

Cleanliness

Winnipeg Blue Bombers athletic therapist Al Couture says cleanliness has always been a priority and the locker-room is constantly cleaned.

"If a player does get sick, they're segregated," said Couture. "They're told to stay home. If they don't get better relatively quickly, then they'll see a doctor and just follow the steps."

Since Moose and Blue Bombers players don't fit into the high-risk category, those individuals can go for H1N1 flu shots on a voluntary basis.

"It's frightening, but you don't want to be overreactionary to it either," said Bombers head coach Mike Kelly. "There have been multiple discussions about what's the most prudent way for us to handle things right now."

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca

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