So-called ‘mandatory’ vaccinations for NHL players creates debate

Without politicizing the pandemic situation and how it relates to sports any more than it’s already been, why do these issues always come down to a rather juvenile-sounding “but you promised!’’

That seems to be the crux of the matter over the past couple days sfter Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner went on a podcast and said the NHL promised it would relieve restrictions provided players were all vaccinated.

It didn’t take long for the NHL to respond with a “no decision has ever been made’’ via league vice president Bill Daly.

The first question we have is this: Did the league and the players’ association plan for this type of scenario before the season began?

And if they didn’t, why didn’t they?

It seems the other major pro sports have loosened their restrictions, whereas in the NHL players are still basically limited to hotel rooms on the road and discouraged from patronizing restaurants while back home.

Some hockey players were apparently under the impression that things would change if they got vaccinated.

Well, a lot of those shots were administered but restrictions remain pretty much the same.

Lehner, who initially used the word “prison’’ to describe these conditions, walked back those comments a bit (apologizing for the prison reference) but said the NHL didn’t properly consider the players who have health conditions, etc. It should be noted Lehner has been treated for alcoholism and addiction in the past.

The second question we have is: Why do the players need to have their arms twisted to take the vaccine in the first place?

Millions of people in the U.S. and Canada have willingly gotten their shots as a part of a world-wide attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has already claimed three million lives across the globe.

We haven’t heard a peep out of the Flyers when it comes to this matter and bravo to that.

Maybe it’s because player rep James van Riemsdyk, who was on the initial “return to play’’ committee last year, kept his teammates properly informed.

If there were, say, 10 percent of NHL players who didn’t want to take the vaccine, that’s up to them.

But those feelings should have been made known before the puck dropped for the first game back in January.

Just because baseball and basketball players get to fly all over the country and go out for post-game dinners doesn’t necessarily make it right.

If people need proof of how serious the conditions are, just take a look at the Vancouver Canucks, who will struggle to complete their season after nearly the entire roster fell sick, some even bedridden.

Keep in mind, these players are getting paid millions of dollars and now you’re telling us they can’t bite the bullet for a year or two for the greater good of society?

Most of them are too young to remember how science eliminated deadly epidemics of the past such as polio, smallpox and malaria.

It took a concerted effort to eliminate these scurges from society.

In a sense, NHL players should be part of a similar willing effort for this latest crisis.

If there have to be exceptions, handle them in private.

Why make somebody – the NHL — look wrong when all it’s trying to do is the right thing?



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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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