The Devils confirmed on Monday that goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine late last week.
Blackwood, who was one of a small number of unvaccinated players at the start of the 2021-22 NHL season, said earlier this month he was leaning towards getting vaccinating. The goaltender will have to continue following the league’s protocols for unvaccinated players until two weeks after his second dose. He had been away from the team just before Opening Night after two inconclusive COVID-19 tests before testing negative.
“For me that’s a decision that he made,” said Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. “For our team that’s a great decision and our group is happy that he’s taken that first step.”
[Olympic men’s roster projections: U.S. / Canada]
The NHL and NHLPA did not issue a vaccinate mandate this season, but there are stricter protocols for players who are not vaccinated. Teams have the ability to suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they are forced to miss games or practices. Unvaccinated players are also unable to cross the border into Canada.
Once he is fully vaccinated, Blackwood would be eligible to travel with the Devils when they play against Canadian teams. (New Jersey does not travel up north until a Dec. 3 trip to Winnipeg.) He would also be able to be named as one of Canada’s three goalies for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported last week that the 24-year-old was one of six goalies on general manager Doug Armstrong’s 50-man “long list” for the February tournament.
[IIHF: Full 2022 men’s and women’s Olympic schedules]
All 2022 Olympic athletes must be vaccinated or face a 21-day quarantine after arriving in Beijing. The Devils’ final game before the NHL All-Star/Olympic break is Feb. 1 at home against Toronto. Canada’s first men’s game is Feb. 10 against Germany.
Blackwood has been dealing with an injured heel and has not played for the Devils yet this season.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.