NHL Has Only 4 Unvaccinated Players at Start of 2021-22 Season, Gary Bettman Says

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 13, 2021

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 21: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prepares for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft at Gas Works Park on July 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Kraken is the National Hockey League's newest franchise and will begin play in October 2021. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Only four NHL players remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, per commissioner Gary Bettman.

"Everybody banding together to do the right thing," Bettman said Tuesday from the league's season opener between the Pittsburgh Penguins and host Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Maybe that's why hockey is the ultimate team sport."

Per ESPN News Services, Bettman also revealed that all NHL officials and personnel who contact players are vaccinated.

The NHL has instituted significant restrictions and drawbacks for players who remain unvaccinated, as Chris Bumbaca of USA Today reported Tuesday:

"A team has the right to suspend and dock the pay of an unvaccinated player if he's unable to play because of a local, state or federal government's rules. Unvaccinated players have to quarantine while on the road and face greater mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements. They must get tested every day, compared with every three days for vaccinated players."

The NHL now has 32 teams with the debut of the Seattle Kraken. Each team carries a 23-man-roster, meaning that 732 of the league's 736 players are vaccinated (99.45 percent).

Per Bumbaca, New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi and Edmonton Oilers right wing Josh Archibald are unvaccinated.

Blackwood said Sunday that he's leaning toward getting vaccinated, per Sportsnet.

"Can't say that I wasn't prepared for stuff like that to happen," Blackwood said. "I still have things to do before I go one way or the other [on deciding to get vaccinated or not], but I'm probably going to be getting the shot in the next couple weeks."

As for Bertuzzi, he has no plans on getting the vaccine.

β€œJust personal choice, freedom of choice and life choice,” Bertuzzi told reporters via Zoom in September.

Blackwood and Bertuzzi cannot play road games in Canada at the moment because of the country's rule that any unvaccinated person crossing the border must quarantine for 14 days.

Archibald, who had COVID-19 during the offseason, is sidelined indefinitely with myocarditis, per Mark Spector of Sportsnet. He is the only player on a Canadian NHL team who is unvaccinated.

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed forward Zac Rinaldo, who is unvaccinated, to a two-way contract last offseason. However, the team is keeping him away from the NHL and AHL rosters, and he did not receive an invite to either camp, per Bumbaca.

The NHL season began Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Penguins defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2.