NHL says 98% of players will be vaccinated by opening night

NHL Bill Daly
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told multiple media outlets that the league projects 98% of its players will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by opening night of the 2021-22 season next month.

According to that math, fewer than 15 players would not be vaccinated by Oct. 12.

“We want everybody fully vaccinated and, obviously, the last couple of months have shown that that doesn’t necessarily preclude the fact that people are going to get the infection,” Daly told The Athletic. “But it certainly increases the likelihood that it’s not a serious health and safety concern.”

Like other major sports leagues in the United States and North America, the NHL is not mandating that players be inoculated, but it will enact separate sets of rules and guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated players. If unvaccinated NHL players contract COVID-19 and miss games or practices as a result, teams will be allowed to suspend those players and dock game checks.

On the other hand, vaccinated players who experience so-called breakthrough COVID-19 infections will be treated as though they have hockey-related injuries, per the protocols, and won’t be at risk of suspension without pay.

NHL coaches are required to receive a vaccine. The Columbus Blue Jackets fired assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre because he refused to get vaccinated. San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson also stepped down because he could not take the vaccine due to an undisclosed medical reason.

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