On Thursday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced at the NHL Player Media Tour that the National Hockey League is expected to be approximately 98 percent fully-vaccinated come puck drop on the 2021-22 season this October.
That number will put the league well ahead of the three other top-tier professional sporting leagues within North America’s ‘Big-Four’ (baseball, football and basketball). Should the players in question hold up their end of the bargain, Daly says that roughly 15 players will remain unvaccinated by opening night on Tuesday, October 12.
“The last list I looked at indicated that the number of unvaccinated players by the start of the season should be less than 15 – it may even be less than 10,” Daly said. “We’re going to be 98-99 percent vaccinated. And while the last couple months have shown that vaccination doesn’t preclude people from getting the infection, it does certainly raise the health level of everybody. People aren’t getting really sick if they’re fully vaccinated.”
According to the most recent pieces of data found in the New York Times, the National Football League is roughly 93 percent vaccinated, the National Basketball Association is at 90 percent, while only 85 percent of Major League Baseball players have received the jab.
With the league recently announcing that players moved to the COVID-19 reserve will be ineligible to earn their salary for that duration of time, players who had earlier been vaccine hesitant or even skeptics have certainly changed their tune, with just 15 holdouts remaining for the start of the season.
“People can make their own decisions, but the right one would be to get vaccinated,” former Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba said. “I think it’s great that it’s come this way, and hopefully we get 15 more guys vaccinated…. That’s the path that most people have chosen now within the league, which is good. And, personally, I’m fine with the restrictions that they have put in place.”
Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes rosters are fully-vaccinated. At this point, there is no league mandate requiring all players to have received their vaccination, but according to many of the stars of the game, the players know the right thing to do.
“I think everyone just wants everyone to be as safe as they can, and it seems like that’s the way to do it,” Los Angeles Kings’ defenceman Drew Doughty said. “The rules we had last year were pretty strict, and it wasn’t that fun.”
In addition to his comments on vaccine uptake, Daly also spoke on a variety of concerns from NHL general managers following the 2020-21 season, with reference to taxi squads the potential implementation of a goaltender taxi squad for the coming year.
“We’ve been in communication with our general managers, they were a little bit concerned about the issue,” Daly added. “What we’ve said is let’s see how training camp goes. Let’s see where we are and let’s see how many players are getting infected, or if there’s a breakthrough in infections… Again, we’ll see how training camp plays out and what our experience is there and whether adjustments need to be made.”
Training camps open league next weekend with exhibition games beginning soon to follow. The 2021-22 regular season kicks off on October 12.