An unvaccinated player puts a shock absorber at the start of the camp
The New Jersey Devils have their first practice of the season this week. The team hit the ice for the first time since May on Friday. It’s been almost five months since we saw our guys play. It’s not as long as we waited for last year (thank goodness), but it still feels like an eternity since we saw Devils hockey.
We should be talking about the lines from the first practice or the awesome quotes from Alexander Holtz, but unfortunately all we can talk about is the fact that the Devils have a player in training camp who is not vaccinated.
For what is rapidly approaching two years of our life, pretty much everything we have done in our lives is covered in a cloud called the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all sick of it. We all want this to end, but the reality of the situation is that when a player isn’t vaccinated, it matters.
If it is literally a person in the room who is not vaccinated, calculations indicate that it would be difficult for that person to spread the virus on their own. Even if this player gets it, which is comparatively much easier than his vaccinated brethren, passing it on to his teammates won’t be as easy as last season. This does not change the importance of this player not being vaccinated due to the rules in place by the NHL and the country of Canada.
This player cannot play in Canada. Period, end of history. In March, the Devils play three straight games in Western Canada. This player should stay home all week. They embark on a six-game road trip to Ottawa in April. This means that the player has to meet the team in the middle of a very important journey.
There are rumors about who the player is. Journalists seem to know exactly who this player is. ESPN reporter Greg Wyshynski says this player is important, which tells us that he is not one of the PTOs or maybe a prospect who is unlikely to make the list. It’s going to be something that impacts the team on a daily basis. The questions will continue.
For a sport that goes out of its way to stop distractions, players who get media training even before entering the NHL, and coaches who demand a lot more from their players than a shot, it’s odd that just one player could be the outlier. Whatever your decision about vaccines, these sports have made it clear that they believe in the health data from vaccines and make it much easier for players to receive them. Canada takes an even bigger stance.
It’s also clear that if this player is “important” he could be looking to qualify for the Olympics next year. However, some countries already require vaccinations. After the mess of the Tokyo Olympics, Team USA said all athletes must be vaccinated for the Beijing Olympics. Other countries will likely follow suit, and the IOC could simply demand it at all levels.
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Losing a player for nine games to something like that is weird. If it was a contractual dispute, we would eviscerate it. However, because of the political nature of this public health issue, people are taking sides. Now the Devils must find a way to replace that player for at least nine games this season. As much as most of us don’t want this to be a story anymore, it’s a story. This is one of the most compelling stories from training camp.