The New Jersey Devils are having their first practices of the season this week. On Friday, the team hit the ice for the first time since May. It’s been a long almost five months since we’ve seen our guys play. It’s not as long as we waited last year (thank goodness), but it still feels like forever since we’ve seen Devils hockey.
We should be talking about the lines from the first practice or the awesome quotes from Alexander Holtz, but unfortunately, all we can talk about is the fact the Devils have one player in training camp that is unvaccinated.
For what is rapidly closing in on two years of our lives, just about everything we’ve done in our life has a cloud over it called the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all sick of it. We all want it to just end, but the reality of the situation is when a player is unvaccinated, it matters.
If it’s literally one person in the room that is unvaccinated, the math says it would be hard for that person to spread the virus by himself. Even if that player gets it, which comparatively is a lot easier than his vaccinated brethren, spreading it to his teammates won’t be as easy as it was last season. That doesn’t change the importance of this one player being unvaccinated because of the rules in place by the NHL and the country of Canada.
This player can’t play in Canada. Period, end of story. In March, the Devils play three straight games in Western Canada. This player would have to stay home the entire week. They start a six-game road trip in Ottawa in April. That means the player has to meet the team in the middle of a very important trip.
There are rumors about who the player is. The reporters seem to know exactly who this player is. ESPN reporter Greg Wyshynski says this player is significant, which tells us it’s not one of the PTOs or possibly a prospect who has little chance to make the roster. This is going to be something that impacts the team on a daily basis. The questions will continue.
For a sport that does everything it can to stop distractions, players who take media training before they even make the NHL, and coaches who demand a lot more of their players than a shot, it’s strange that one player could be the outlier. Whatever your decision is on vaccines, these sports made it very clear that they believe in the health data coming from the vaccines, and they are making it much easier on the players that get them. Canada is taking an even bigger stance.
There’s also the clear possibility that if this player is “significant”, they might be looking to make the Olympics next year. However, certain countries are already requiring vaccinations. After the mess that was the Tokyo Olympics, Team USA declared that all athletes must be vaccinated for the Beijing Olympics. Other countries will probably follow suit, and the IOC might just require it across the board.
Losing a player for nine games over something like this is strange. If it was a contract dispute, we’d eviscerate him. However, because of how political this public health issue has become, people are taking sides. Now, the Devils need to find a way to replace this player for at least nine games this season. As much as most of us don’t want this to be a story anymore, it is a story. It is one of the most significant stories in training camp.