TAMPA -- The NHL is down to four players who have not received the vaccination for COVID-19, Commissioner Gary Bettman said prior to the season-opening game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.
"Our vaccination rate is incredible," Commissioner Bettman said. "Four players, not four percent of players. All of our officials are vaccinated. All of the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated."
Commissioner Bettman said the vaccination rate among NHL players is a testament to the partnership and alliance the NHL and the NHL Players' Association have formed, specifically since the pandemic began in March 2020.
"Throughout all of this, we had great collaboration and cooperation with the players and Players' Association," Commissioner Bettman said. "This doesn't happen to get to this point without that collaboration and cooperation. Yes, the players have stepped up to get vaccinated, but even thinking about how the players had to function the last two years, to go into the bubble. I spent three weeks there, I get it, but there were some who had to spend eight weeks there. Having to adhere to the protocols last season so we could administer 330,000 tests to keep everybody healthy. The fact that we were in the bubble and I think we did 35,000 tests and didn't have one positive. Everybody banded together to do the right thing. Maybe that's why hockey is the ultimate team sport."
Commissioner Bettman said health and safety remain priorities for the NHL even though the vaccination rate is so high. The reminders came Tuesday, when Seattle Kraken players Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak, Joonas Donskoi and Calle Jarnkrok, and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon went into NHL COVID-19 protocol. McCann, Oleksiak and Donskoi were later cleared to play in a 4-3 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights, the first game in Seattle history. MacKinnon will not play in Colorado's season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; TNT).
"We continue to reinforce the fact that everybody has to remain vigilant, particularly when we have teams traveling the way our teams typically do so we don't lose sight of this fact," Commissioner Bettman said. "It's something we take very seriously."