Oilers, Red Wings facing vaccine concerns as training camp opens

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland confirmed his team will have one unvaccinated player when the season starts, while forward Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings also joined the list of NHLers without the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

Holland did not name the player in his press conference to open training camp, but mentioned forward Josh Archibald's name, unprompted, in a radio interview about players' vaccination status on CHED 630 AM in Edmonton.

With the seven Canadian teams facing more border crossings than U.S. counterparts, unvaccinated players face an additional challenge.

"(Being unvaccinated) is much more difficult on a Canadian team," Holland told CHED.

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Bertuzzi is the only unvaccinated Detroit player going into training camp and faces the potential of missing all of his team's games in Canada this season as a result.

Yzerman in his camp-opening video call said the rest of the organization is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including himself. Bertuzzi is in Detroit for the start of on-ice workouts Thursday but the forward may end up forfeiting over $450,000 in salary for the Red Wings' nine games north of the border. NHL protocols allow teams to suspend unvaccinated players without pay when they are unavailable to participate.

"For the foreseeable future entering Canada, you can't enter Canada unless you're vaccinated, so that obviously will be an issue when we go to play Canadian teams," Yzerman said. "Does that change or not? I have no idea. But as of now and under the Canadian laws, I guess, he wouldn't be able to cross the border, so he wouldn't play in any games in Canada."

That includes Detroit's first road game Oct. 23 at Montreal. The 26-year-old Bertuzzi will be allowed to practice with teammates but must wear a mask around the rink and distance himself when working out in the gym, in addition to other restrictions on the road.

Asked if he was disappointed in Bertuzzi choosing not to get one of the coronavirus vaccines, Yzerman said: "No. It's his decision."

"I'm not in a position to force anyone — we can't force anyone to get vaccinated," Yzerman added. "Tyler has his reasons, and I'm sure you'll get a chance to ask him that question."

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association did not impose a vaccine mandate on players, but restrictions — including the potential of not being able to cross the border from the U.S. into Canada without a lengthy quarantine — will make things challenging for those who are not vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated players will have any COVID-19 positive tests treated as hockey injuries and still be paid. Unvaccinated players also will have their movements restricted when on the road. And there will still be regular coronavirus testing for vaccinated players.

Bertuzzi so far is the most high-profile NHL player to be publicly identified as unvaccinated as training camps open around North America. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimated the league would have only around 10-15 unvaccinated players by the time the regular season starts Oct. 12.

Veteran defenceman Duncan Keith, who was traded from Chicago to Edmonton over the summer, is in quarantine until Oct. 1 after choosing late in the offseason to get vaccinated, Holland said.

Others are taking a hard line on vaccination status.

The Columbus Blue Jackets did not invite unvaccinated forward Zac Rinaldo to NHL camp and earlier dumped an assistant coach who declined to get vaccinnated. New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said he was in the process of figuring out what to do with his team's lone unvaccinated player, with assignment to Europe among the options.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander also said he is not fully vaccinated, but plans to be once the season starts.

-- With files from The Associated Press

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