When the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets revealed their training camp roster on Tuesday, F Zac Rinaldo’s name was nowhere to be found even though they had signed him as a free agent to a two-way contract last month — US$750,000 in the NHL, $275,000 in the AHL. . . . John Davidson, the Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations, explained that Rinaldo “is not vaccinated and because of that — and that’s his decision — the plan is to start him in the American Hockey League and he will not be coming to our training camp.” . . . And wouldn’t you love to know what the other players in the Cleveland Monsters’ camp think about that? . . . Rinaldo, 31, was pointless in five games with the Calgary Flames last season. . . . Davidson also said: “When you read the amount of players, the percentage that have been vaccinated, it’s a big, big number. There’s very few who aren’t, and that’s their own personal choice. I’m not going to sit here and tell them what to do, even though I’d like to see the whole world get vaccinated. My daughter’s a doctor. She believes in this, and I believe in her because she’s a whole lot smarter than I am. I’d like to see the whole world get vaccinated. We have a responsibility as the leaders of the organization. We want our people vaccinated. We want them wearing masks as much as possible.” . . . Earlier this month, the Blue Jackets dumped assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre after he chose not to get vaccinated. . . . It’s interesting, too, that the Blue Jackets’ training camp is presented by Ohio Health, which bills itself as “a family of not-for-profit, faith-based hospitals & healthcare organizations.” . . .
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic later tweeted: “Told the NHL Players’ Association is reviewing the #CBJ decision to ban forward Zac Rinaldo from attending #NHL training camp because he’s not vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.”
CBC News — “COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.”
Meanwhile, Lou Lamoriello, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the New York Islanders, told reporters on Tuesday that everyone in that organization is vaccinated, with the exception of one player. “That is his voluntary decision not to be vaccinated,” said Lamoriello, who didn’t identify the player. Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press tweeted that the Islanders are “looking to assign him to Europe. (He) won’t be invited to camp.”
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote Tuesday that he has been told that 100 per cent of the Seattle Kraken’s players are fully vaccinated “even though general manager Ron Francis said he wasn’t authorized to comment.” . . . In an interesting piece, Baker writes: “Given our city’s dark history with pandemics and hockey, it’s a relief to see Kraken players aren’t testing the resolve of both the team and most of the local community. With the 1919 Stanley Cup final in Seattle still the lone major sports championship ever canceled by a pandemic that also killed some players and maybe coaches as well, it’s good to see the league and Players’ Association getting tough about vaccine compliance.” . . . Baker’s piece, which is well worth a read, is right here.
Officials with a pair of American junior hockey teams said late last month that they had players who chose not to get vaccinated. In a Spokane Spokesman-Review story written by Dan Thompson and published on Aug. 26, Bob Tobiason, the owner of the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and Bliss Littler, the general manager of the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, both say they experienced that situation. . . . “Some of the kids, they were willing to get vaccinated,” Tobiason said, “but there were quite a few who weren’t gonna do it.” The Braves announced last month that they will sit out their second straight KIJHL season. . . . “Did we lose a player or two? Yeah, we did, a few kids who didn’t wanna get a shot,” Littler said. “But there’s a lot of kids who wanna play in the BCHL.” . . . The Wild sat out last season, but it’s full steam ahead right now, although it is scheduled to play its first eight regular-season games in B.C., as the league hopes for the U.S. to open its border in the near future. The Wild’s home-opener is scheduled for Nov. 12. . . . Thompson’s story is right here.
The U.S. government said Monday that it will keep its land border with Canada closed at least until Oct. 21. It has been closed since March 2020. . . . Interestingly, fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed entry to Canada since Aug. 9. . . . The WHL, of course, is watching this with great interest because the closure already has resulted in major schedule revisions. The league’s original plan for 2021-22 was to have teams playing within their conferences. But because the border is closed to southbound traffic, the WHL has adjusted its schedule for October and now has the 10 Western Conference teams playing only within their divisions.
Organizers of the Brian Steele Early Bird Tournament that is sanctioned by the Greater Toronto Hockey League and scheduled for Toronto, Oct. 25-31, have dropped three age groups — U-10, U-11 and U-12 — because players on those teams are too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic reported Tuesday that organizers cited “rising infections, safety concerns and risks to the event itself by having unvaccinated children take part.” . . . Apparently, two teams had pulled out of the tournament because of what they felt was the risk presented by COVID-19. . . . Fitz-Gerald’s story is right here.
Remember when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling and other NFL players were following suit and a whole lot of people were whining about longer watching games on TV because of those actions? . . . Here are a few observations on the NFL’s Week 2 ratings from Sports Media Watch: “Mannings double their Week 1 audience. . . . CBS scores most-watched Sept. doubleheader since 2014. . . . FOX has most-watched Week 2 singleheader since 2016. . . . NBC has most-watched Week 2 SNF game since 2018.” . . . Whatever happened to those people who were done with watching the NFL?
The Central Plains Capitals have been granted a leave of absence for 2021-22 by the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League. . . . “You can blame the pandemic and a declining number of eligible hockey players in the region for that,” wrote Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press. . . . Nancy Funk, the general manager of the team that plays out of Portage la Prairie, told Sawatzky: “It was an extremely difficult decision, obviously. “We’ve been talking about it for a few days pretty intensely but we were hoping that there would be some kind of heroes come in at the 11th hour and hopefully it would be able to round out the roster. But it just didn’t happen this year.”
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