H1N1 having impact in sports world

There’s good news for those unsportsmanlike athletes out there. You don’t have to bother shaking hands after games anymore!
Just blame it on the H1N1 virus and storm off to the dressing room.
The downside, of course, is you’ll have to avoid those ridiculous post-touchdown/goal celebrations that include chest bumps and leapfrogs over teammates.
That’s just reality as the world takes on H1N1.
Canadian Olympic Committee officials have advised athletes to come up with some new greetings to fellow athletes at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, rather than shaking hands or kissing cheeks.
An elbow tap or fist bump will suffice, thank you very much.
The downside to this news is we won’t be seeing Russian hockey stars Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk smooching after a goal like their Russian predecessors used to do back in Canada Cups of yesteryear.
How unfortunate.
But on a serious note, the ’flu season is taking a firm hold here and things could get nasty. Are sports teams and schools doing enough to prevent a potential outbreak?
The NCAA south of the border, for instance, has recommended volleyball programs suspend pre- and post-match handshakes in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.
But is that enough? Shouldn’t all athletes be vaccinated before taking to the ice, pitch, or court? Shouldn’t hand cleansers be mandatory in locker-rooms?
Shouldn’t these necessary steps be taken at all levels of sport—right down to the youngest age groups?
The post-game handshake is relatively tame compared to the physical contact that takes place during the course of a game. Bodily fluids easily could be transferred from one player to another as they battle for position on the basketball court, as just one example.
The major sports leagues are talking about it, but an affirmative action plan no doubt needs to be in place. I’m not one for “doomsday” talk, but there is major money on the line if half of a professional league’s superstars fall ill for long stretches of games.
“We’ve focused on it and met internally to discuss the matter, but at this time have no firm ‘cancellation’ or other contingency plan in place,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail to the Canadian Press.
“[The NHL] will step up our preparation efforts if and when it becomes necessary,” he added.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s poster child, LeBron James, and Cleveland Cavalier teammates Darnell Jackson and Coby Karl tested positive for Influenza A earlier this month, and are being treated as if they have the H1N1 virus by the Cavaliers.
But pro athletes are under the watchful eyes of team doctors and therapists who can minimize the spread quickly. Have we average folk taken notice of this potentially dangerous ’flu?
According to a Harris Decima survey of 1,000 Canadians, one-third were less inclined to shake hands because of the H1N1 virus and 52 percent said someone had refused to shake hands with them because of such concerns.
That’s a pretty good ratio.
Plus, the federal government has taken steps to have the vaccine shipped nationwide to deal or prevent further outbreak.
On the other hand, it’s hard to argue against those who say this strain is no worse than the seasonal ’flu. However, reports suggest young people are more susceptible to H1N1—the opposite to trends with the seasonal variety.
And this could have a serious impact on sports teams at all levels.
Athletes often share water bottles and room together in hotels on weekend tournament trips, so even if one or two get the ’flu, they potentially could take the whole team down with them.
• • •
The Muskie girls’ hockey team finally will play some games for real this weekend when they host their annual exhibition tournament.
The squad will open play Friday at 2:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena against the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora), then return to the IFK Arena later that evening for a tilt with the Red Lake Rams at 6:45 p.m.
The black-and-gold continue action with two games Saturday, beginning at 11:15 a.m. against the Pembina Tigers before wrapping up round-robin play at 8:15 p.m. versus the Miller Aces.
The tournament final goes Sunday at 2 p.m.
• • •
The Muskie junior girls’ basketball squad will host a tournament at Fort High this week.
They open play tomorrow at 4 p.m. against St. Patrick’s (Thunder Bay), then will host Superior on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
They’ll wrap up play Saturday at 10:30 a.m. against Hammarskjold (Thunder Bay).
• • •
Fort Frances native Joe Basaraba is off to a good start in his second season with the Shattuck St. Mary’s prep team.
Basaraba has 10 points in 11 games as the Sabres have compiled a 9-2-1 record.
• • •
Emo’s Luke Judson has broken out of his scoring slump with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls. Judson had five points in three games last week, and now has seven points in 11 games on the season.
He opened the week with a goal, assist, and a fight against Oshawa on Oct. 14, then tallied another goal versus Guelph on Friday.
Judson wrapped up the week with another goal and assist performance in a win over Kitchener on Saturday.
The Bulls are back in action this Friday when they travel to London to clash with the Knights.
• • •
A trio of local players are having a big impact with the Thunder Bay Minor Midget Kings this season. After a slow start, Bryce Knapp has caught fire and now has seven goals and four assists in 16 games, including a hat trick in a win over the Oakville Rangers in tournament play last week.
Defencemen Robbie Rea has recorded nine points to date while Jon Carlson has notched six.
The Minor Midget Kings play on the Winnipeg Midget ‘AAA’ circuit, and sport a 10-5-1 record in tournament and league play to date.
Meanwhile, fellow Fort Frances resident Jordan Larson has seven points in seven games for the Bantam Kings, who are 4-3 so far.
• • •
Goaltender Ryan Faragher is continuing to improve with every start for the Bismarck Bobcats of the NAHL. Faragher has lowered his goals-against-average to 2.79 and raised his save percentage to .897. He has a 2-3-2 record in nine appearances and gave up just one regulation goal in his last start, a 2-1 shootout loss to Owatonna.
On an interesting note, one of the Owatonna scorers in the shootout was none other than Jake Youso of International Falls.

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