Teams claim they will provide a safe environment.
The National Hockey League’s pre-season schedule is starting and the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health crisis. There is a group of more than a dozen infectious disease and critical care doctors in Alberta who are pleading with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers ownership groups not to fill their buildings with customers for the foreseeable future. Alberta has a high rate of COVID-19 cases and the province is running out of Intensive Care Unit beds. Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has requested aid from the country’s federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. There are 222 COVID-19 patients in provincial ICUs. There are nearly 1,000 people in local hospitals with COVID-19, and Alberta has identified more than 20,900 active cases. Surgeries have been cancelled across Alberta to free up health-care workers to deal with the COVID-19 health crisis. Both the Calgary and Edmonton ownerships want every seat in their arenas taken and both claim that they have safety protocols in place to deal with the pandemic.
The NHL is taking the COVID-19 crisis seriously. The Detroit Red Wings Tyler Bertuzzi is refusing to take a COVID-19 vaccine and will not be able to play games in Canada because of Canada’s quarantine rules. The NHL and NHL Players Association do not have a vaccine mandate but unvaccinated players face restrictions. The unvaccinated will not be exempt from a 14-day quarantine when crossing from the U.S. to Canada, and teams can suspend players without pay who are unable to participate in team activities. The Columbus Blue Jackets have fired an assistant coach, Sylvain Lefebvre, and one player, Zak Rinaldo, has been told to stay home. Rinaldo refused to take the COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is still making an impact, this is the third season the league has COVID-19 problems.
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