Tampa, Fla. — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has only four unvaccinated players as it opens up the 2021-22 season.
Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi is one of those four players who have chosen not to get vaccinated.
“Just personal choice, freedom of choice, and life choice,” Bertuzzi said last month.
Bettman was in attendance for the regular-season opener between the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
“Everybody banding together to do the right thing,” Bettman said before Pittsburgh’s 6-2 victory. “Maybe that’s why hockey is the ultimate team sport.”
Bettman said NHL officials and all the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.
“It’s something we take seriously,” Bettman said. “Health and safety has been and will continue to be paramount.”
There are still COVID-19 cases involving players that are fully vaccinated.
Seattle Kraken players Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak, Joonas Donskoi and former Red Wings draft pick Calle Jarnkrok, and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon went into NHL COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday.
With the debut of the Kraken on Tuesday, the NHL now has 32 teams. Each team carries a 23-man-roster, meaning that 732 of the league’s 736 players are vaccinated (99.45 percent).
New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood is also unvaccinated but he said on Sunday that he’s learning toward getting the vaccine.
“I still have things to do before I go one way or the other [on deciding to get vaccinated or not], but I’m probably going to be getting the shot in the next couple weeks,” Blackwood told SportsNet Canada.