The NHL is anticipating that almost all of its 700 players will be fully vaccinated when the 2021-22 season begins next month.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic on Tuesday that there will probably be fewer than 15 players in the entire league that are not fully vaccinated when the season begins, a number that would give the league a full vaccination rate of 98%.
Daly also told NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika that the number of unvaccinated players could actually be less than 10 depending on who makes final rosters.
“We’ve had some player reluctance on vaccination. Our latest information is that reluctance is receding,” said Daly, via NHL.com. “Some players who were holdouts are going to go forward and get vaccinated, so hopefully at some point in the season we’ll have 100 percent fully vaccinated.”
The NHL has not mandated that players be vaccinated but unvaccinated players would face harsh punishments should they be unable to play, while also facing strict quarantine rules when cross the border.
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Teams have the freedom to suspend unvaccinated players without pay should they be unable to participate in team activities due to the COVID protocols.
Fully vaccinated players will still be paid if they test positive and have to miss activities.
So far there are already three teams that have announced 100% vaccination rates — Calgary, Toronto, and Carolina. Several more are expected to soon join that group. Daly told Cotsonika that as many as 25 teams should reach full vaccination status by the opening of the season.
Coaches and team staff members are required to be fully vaccinated, and we have already seen one coach — Columbus’ Sylvain Lefebvre — step down and be replaced on the team’s staff as a result.
The NHL’s 98% rate would be among the highest rates in professional sports. The WNBA is believed to lead the way at 99%, while the NFL is at 93%. The NBA is currently around 90% while Major League Baseball is at 85%.