The few players in the NHL who remain unvaccinated are making a pointless stand. The NHL boasts one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in pro sports. The NHL vaccination rate is 98%, deputy commissioner Bill Daly announced. The league released their Health and Safety protocols in the lead-up to training camps opening. Players not vaccinated are going to stand out as negatively affecting their teams. According to the aforementioned Health and Safety protocols, teams will be able to suspend players who miss time/games due to not being able to travel with the team across the US-Canada border. Travel across the border requires full vaccination against Covid-19.
The Sad Few, A Pointless Stand
With that 98% vaccination rate, it leaves only about 10-15 players who are “holding their ground” on getting a shot. This “select” group includes Edmonton’s Josh Archibald, Columbus’ Zac Rinaldo, Islanders prospect Bode Wilde, and Detroit star Tyler Bertuzzi. Archibald has not been able to participate in the Oiler’s main camp so far. He just completed a 14-day quarantine and needs to get “up to speed”, according to head coach Dave Tippet. Rinaldo was not invited to Columbus’ main camp after not receiving a shot. Wilde finds himself in the same boat. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello stated “We will not allow any player in our organization (to) participate unless they are vaccinated”. Wilde took to Instagram to comment on this development. “Hoping my human rights are enough to let me play … what a world,” is what the 21 year-old prospect decided to go with.
Bertuzzi, the highest-profile player to not receive a vaccine, participated in the first round of Detroit’s training camp Thursday. During a press conference after practice, Bertuzzi called the choice to not get vaccinated a “personal choice, freedom of choice, and a life choice”. Bertuzzi, like all unvaccinated players, are subject to stricter guidelines than their vaccinated teammates. This includes having to wear masks around team facilities and not being able to leave their hotel rooms on the road. Most importantly, Bertuzzi and the others making this particular “life choice” will not be able to join their teams in crossing the US-Canada border, thus not being able to play in games that require such a crossing.
Selfish And Against Hockey Culture
Hockey is a sport where players are so hesitant to stand out and be “me before we”. Remaining unvaccinated is the ultimate stand-out move in 2021. In a sport where sacrificing for the betterment of the team is valued above all, choosing that you’re better off missing games to the detriment of your team is a true head-scratcher. Tyler Bertuzzi is directly affecting his team with this choice. As a high-end player on a struggling team, it’s a big deal.
Bode Wilde, on the other hand, is a player looking to break into the league. Wilde spent the past 2 seasons toiling in the AHL. His comments are truly baffling to me, and he will find out quickly that playing in the NHL is a privilege, not one of his “human rights”. Further, to make that comment with the likes of Lou Lamoreillo as his GM, a man who has notoriously little patience for those that draw attention to themselves off the ice… Wilde may have just earned himself “career minor-leaguer” status.
Hurting the team is not the only negative. The risk to their own health and safety cannot be ignored. Just last week it was announced that Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock will be missing the entire season due to a potential heart condition stemming from complications due to Covid-19. Given this development, Archibald’s refusal makes less sense. Stalock and Archibald are both part of the Edmonton organization.
Touted Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi had to sit out all of last season after contracting the virus. Rossi has been very vocal on the effects that Covid had on him. Effects range from extreme fatigue to his own heart complications. Rossi’s career almost ended before it even began, and it could have been so much worse.
These stories must not resonate with the few players that are choosing to forgo a Covid vaccine. Their refusal to get a shot says that they feel they do not take the threat of severe illness seriously. It also shows they are willing to affect their team negatively in order to… what? It is everyone’s choice with what they do to their bodies. But from where I am sitting, the positives far outweigh the potential risks of receiving a vaccine.