Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

NHL: Coronavirus protocols not relaxed for vaccinated players

The league responds to Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner saying players were lied to by the NHL and the union about loosening restrictions once players are vaccinated.
Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner guards his net against the Sharks in a game Monday at Las Vegas.
Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner guards his net against the Sharks in a game Monday at Las Vegas. [ JOHN LOCHER | AP ]
Published Apr. 21
Updated Apr. 21

The NHL on Wednesday said it had not guaranteed loosened coronavirus protocols for players who are vaccinated after Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner ripped the league for what he said were unkept promises.

“It’s been a matter that’s been raised and discussed as between us and the (players association), but no decision to modify has ever been made nor communicated to anyone,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.

The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have set vaccination thresholds for relaxing some of their protocols, such as mask wearing and prohibition of outdoor dining, when a certain percentage of team personnel are fully inoculated against the coronavirus. All the teams in those leagues are currently playing in the United States, where everyone 16 and older now can get a vaccine. The NHL has seven teams in Canada, where vaccinatioin eligibility — the nation only recently moved to 40 and older in some jurisdictions — and availability are not nearly as robust.

Related: Excitement builds as Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov works his way back

The NHL has only one player, Toronto’s Joe Thornton, playing in Canada who is older than 40 (he’s 41). In that country, 25 percent of people have received one dose of the vaccine and 2.5 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Global Change Data Lab, a nonprofit research organization in the education sector. In the United States, roughly 40 percent have had one dose and 25 percent are fully vaccinated.

Lehner was on a virtual media sesson Wednesday and made a nearly 11-minute-long umprompted speech on the subject of virus restrictions and their effects on mental health, saying among other things that players were lied to by the NHL and the union about loosening the tight restrictions once players are vaccinated.

“We are vaccinated, and we are still trapped in a prison,” Lehner said.

He said he had calls with the league and the union Tuesday and found out nothing was changing.

Related: Lightning’s goalie gamble doesn’t pay off vs. Hurricanes

“They told me … they’re surveying all the teams to see who has taken the vaccine and who has not taken the vaccines, and they’re not going to change the rules for us as players until all the teams have a fair, have the vaccines at the same time so it’s not a competitive edge,” Lehner said. “They’re talking about competitive edge instead of human lives. Competitive edge, human lives. We’re humans, too.”

Lehner has been a staunch mental health advocate since first opening up about dealing with his bipolar disorder in September 2018.

In a multipost Twitter thread after his session, Lehner apologized for the “prison” reference but reiterated that his stance is simply advocating for all those dealing with mental health issues.

“It has a huge impact on everyone in society right now,” he wrote.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.

NEED A VACCINE? Here's how to find one in the Tampa Bay area and Florida.

VACCINES Q & A: Have coronavirus vaccine questions? We have answers, Florida.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

A TRIBUTE TO THE FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officer and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.