Detroit General Manager Steve Yzerman revealed Wednesday that Bertuzzi was his team’s lone unvaccinated player.
“For the foreseeable future, you can’t enter Canada unless you’re vaccinated, so that obviously will be an issue when we go to play Canadian teams,” Yzerman said. “Does that change or not? I have no idea. But as of now and under the Canadian laws, I guess, he wouldn’t be able to cross the border, so he wouldn’t play in any games in Canada.”
The NHL has vaccine mandates for coaches, trainers and other front-line team staffers but not for players. In a memo issued to teams earlier this month, the league reportedly placed sharp restrictions on unvaccinated players as part of its coronavirus protocols for the upcoming season. Players who have not been vaccinated can be suspended by their teams if they are deemed unable to participate in club activities because of a positive test for the virus or an inability to cross a national border.
Bertuzzi, entering his sixth NHL season, said he took into account the issue of not being able to play in Canada but ultimately made “a life decision.” He added that he discussed vaccination with his family and that of his fiancee, who is expecting their first child.
“Tyler has looked into it, weighed all of his options,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said Thursday. “At the end of the day, it was his choice not to get it.
“Tyler is very popular in our room, he’s a very big part of our locker room, and we’re going to miss him on the ice, miss him in the locker room when he’s not able to play, but he has our support. Like an injury, you have to find ways to move on and be ready to play. We deal with it a lot in our business, and we’ll treat it the same way.”
The nephew of former NHL player Todd Bertuzzi, Tyler Bertuzzi has gained a reputation as a player who can score, set up teammates and do the dirty work. He signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings in July worth a total of $9.5 million, including a base salary this season of $4.25 million (per sports contract site Spotrac). If he misses all nine games in Canada and is docked pay each time, he stands to lose over $450,000.
Bertuzzi is one of just a handful of NHL players who have not been immunized against the virus, according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who said last week that his understanding was that fewer than 15 players will be unvaccinated by the start of the season Oct. 12.
“We’ve had some player reluctance on vaccination,” Daly said then. “Our latest information is that reluctance is receding. Some players who were holdouts are going to go forward and get vaccinated, so hopefully at some point in the season we’ll have 100 percent fully vaccinated.”
In relaying to reporters Thursday a taxing case of covid-19 he suffered in August, Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said he felt pressured to subsequently get the vaccine.
“I’m not anti-vax by any means, but I’d like to have that decision for myself,” Hellebuyck said. “It felt very forced on me. I had just gotten covid and gotten over it, and then I had to get the vaccine, which made me feel like I had covid all over again.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Tuesday that because forward Zac Rinaldo was unvaccinated, he would not be invited to the club’s training camp and instead would be assigned to the camp of its AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters.
Yzerman said Wednesday that he was not disappointed with Bertuzzi’s decision. “We can’t force anyone to get vaccinated,” he added. “Tyler has his reasons.”
“I’m a big fan of Tyler,” Red Wings Coach Coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday. “He’s a great teammate. The NHL allowed our players to make decisions on this, and that’s the decision Tyler has made, and we respect it. Obviously, we’d love to have everybody vaccinated, because then you don’t lose anybody. But I certainly respect the decision.”
The Red Wings start their season at home Oct. 14 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Detroit’s first game in Canada is Oct. 23 in Montreal, and the team is set to play in Toronto and Montreal a week later.
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