The NHL expected that 98% or perhaps even 99% of their players would be vaccinated against the coronavirus before the start of the 2021-22 season. It seems that it has somehow bettered that mark. Commissioner Gary Bettman has revealed that there are currently only four unvaccinated players in the league. This is understood to mean that all but four of the roughly 736 players on NHL rosters as of Monday’s deadline are vaccinated – 99.5% of all players. Bettman spoke about his appreciation and respect for how the players have handled the pandemic in many ways over the past two years:
Throughout all of this, we had great collaboration and cooperation with the players and Players’ Association. This doesn’t happen to get to this point without that collaboration and cooperation. Yes, the players have stepped up to get vaccinated, but even thinking about how the players had to function the last two years, to go into the bubble. … Having to adhere to the protocols last season so we could administer 330,000 tests to keep everybody healthy. The fact that we were in the bubble and I think we did 35,000 tests and didn’t have one positive. Everybody banded together to do the right thing. Maybe that’s why hockey is the ultimate team sport.
Of those four players, two have previously been confirmed as New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who has at least considered receiving the vaccine, and Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi. While Montreal Canadiens forward Jesse Ylonen is also unvaccinated and veteran Vancouver Canucks defenseman Travis Hamonic has been speculated as such as well, neither is considered to be part of this group of four as they are both currently in the AHL.
Bettman also noted that all team personnel and all officials are vaccinated. As a whole, the NHL is about as close to full protection against COVID-19 as could reasonably be expected, not to mention lightyears ahead of the other top North American pro sports leagues.
And yet, coronavirus will continue to play a part in this NHL season. The Seattle Kraken have already dealt with numerous players entering the COVID Protocol before they can even play their first game in the league, while individual players such as Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Vegas’ Mattias Janmark are also sidelined by positive tests. The league and its players have done their best to this point, but will have to continue to adhere to COVID Protocol policies and procedures as all involved hope to play a full and uninterrupted schedule this season.