The NHL's baffling mumps outbreak added a high-profile patient over the weekend in Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who practiced and spoke to the media Friday before tests confirmed the diagnosis.
Although the outbreak so far has been confined to five teams, the number of cases inched toward 15 when Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers developed symptoms Sunday and the Penguins said Monday that forward Beau Bennett was being isolated after developing the facial swelling, fatigue and other symptoms of the virus.
Bennett's symptoms appeared after he visited a Pittsburgh children's hospital, which began testing people he came in contact with. Crosby, who initially tested negative for mumps despite marked swelling on the right side of his face, was held out of his third straight game Monday but might rejoin the team Tuesday, General Manager Jim Rutherford said.
Mumps, a viral infection that affects the salivary glands, can develop even after a person is immunized. The benefits of a vaccination can wear off after decades. The NHL's Infection Control Subcommittee sent comprehensive instructions to each club's head physician and trainer in mid-November on how to prevent mumps from spreading.
Although early speculation pegged Anaheim as "Ground Zero" for the outbreak after Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, Clayton Stoner and Emerson Etem were diagnosed, that might not be true. Several members of the St. Louis Blues had ailments that resembled mumps before they visited Anaheim in mid-October, but a Blues spokesman told The Times' Lance Pugmire they "never confirmed mumps," and the illness was never identified.
The California Department of Public Health said 19 mumps cases had been reported in 2014, but complete numbers won't be available until next year. The median number of reported cases in the past five years was 30.
A Ducks spokesman said the team has taken numerous precautions, beginning with isolating anyone suspected of having the virus. "Other precautions have included disinfecting the locker rooms daily, including all gear and products. We also provided vaccinations to all players and traveling staff," the spokesman said.
A Kings spokesman said the equipment staff relies on the Sani Sport equipment-cleaning machine to rid gear of bacteria and possible viruses. He also said players received a mumps vaccine a month ago.
Brodeur looks good in blue
It's still odd to see Martin Brodeur, who became the NHL's goaltending wins leader over 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, wearing the St. Louis blue note. The 42-year-old goalie, signed as insurance after Brian Elliott was injured, has compiled a 2-1 record, .904 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average in three appearances.
Brodeur is being paid a prorated $700,000 salary plus $10,000 for each point the team earns while he's the goalie of record. It's possible he will face the Kings on Tuesday at St. Louis or Thursday at Staples Center.
"We're happy. You identify a few teams that you think would fit right, and St. Louis is one of those teams," said Brodeur's agent, Pat Brisson of CAA. "They play a style that's good for goalies, at least for Marty, and it's a team that has a chance to go far."
Brisson said Brodeur signed for less than market value but the deal helped both sides: the Blues kept salary-cap maneuvering room and Brodeur got a job. Brisson also said the Blues made no long-term promises about what will happen to Brodeur, Elliott and Jake Allen when Elliott recovers. Brodeur could be a good trade chip for the Blues; Brisson said management would consult Brodeur before making a move.
"We're going a day at a time," Brisson said. "The bottom line is him playing well helps everyone."
Hanging up gloves
George Parros, a fan favorite as an enforcer for the Kings and the Ducks, said he believes enforcers will retain a place in the NHL even though fighting has decreased.
"I'm always going to say teams still need guys that are going to drop the mitts and keep people honest out there," said Parros, who announced his retirement last week after accumulating 36 points and 1,092 penalty minutes in 474 NHL games. "The game is going away from that now, but maybe it's cyclical and it comes back a little bit."
Parros said he's not sure what his future holds, but with an economics degree from Princeton and partnership in the Violent Gentlemen clothing line — the name captures Parros' ethos of not picking on skill players while protecting teammates — he should have many options. Coincidentally, he and his family recently moved to Las Vegas, which appears in line to get an NHL team.
"Maybe I'm in the right spot at the right time," Parros said. "I am interested in seeing hockey come to Las Vegas, and I'd like to be a part of that…. I'm on the ground now in Las Vegas anyway, so I could do some footwork out here."
Prospective Las Vegas franchise owner Bill Foley, given approval by the NHL to gauge interest in a team, established a website where fans can request information, http://www.lasvegas-hockey.com.... Gordie Howe, 86 and weakened by strokes and an episode of dehydration, is "on the upswing," son Mark Howe told the Detroit Free Press last weekend.