How Canada dropping vaccine travel requirement affects Detroit Red Wings’ Tyler Bertuzzi

Detroit Free Press

TRAVERSE CITY — Canada’s pending decision to drop vaccine requirements for people entering the country would have a significant impact on the Detroit Red Wings.

Tyler Bertuzzi made headlines last season as the only player on the team (and one of the few in the NHL) to decline to get vaccinated for COVID-19, calling it a “life choice.” The Wings did not pay Bertuzzi when he missed team activities, such as games and practices, because of his unvaccinated status, and Bertuzzi had to pay his own airfare when he met the Wings on a road trip when they were coming back to the U.S. from Canada.

That may not be necessary any more, as it appears Canada is ready to drop the vaccine requirement at the end of September, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

“Hopefully that is true,” general manager Steve Yzerman said Wednesday. “That looks like that opens the door to get back to normal to have the ability to play in Canada, which will help us. He’s been on our top power play unit, our top six. To lose him for those games is tough. If chance we win more games, we’re more competitive this year, those points are more and more important to us eventually to push for a playoff spot, whether it’s this year or next year or what not. And then the likelihood of us playing a team in Canada when we become a playoff team is pretty high. We’re a better team with Tyler Bertuzzi in the lineup. So if that is true, that is good news for us.”

The Wings have 10 games in Canada this season. They begin camp under new head coach Derek Lalonde on Thursday in Traverse City.

“As a coach, I want a full roster anytime we’re playing anybody,” Lalonde said. “Hopefully it’s headed in a good direction. We’d love Bert available for us any time we play.”

Bertuzzi is among the storylines to watch this season, entering the last season of a two-year, $9.5 million deal. He has topped 20 goals three times in his career, reaching 30 last season in 68 games. If Wings general manager Steve Yzerman senses the framework for an extension for the 27-year-old is not in the making, Yzerman would seek to trade Bertuzzi rather than let him walk as an unrestricted free agent. That scenario would have been hampered if Bertuzzi were not able to play in Canada, but now it looks like a nonfactor.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Her latest book, On the Clock: Detroit Red Wings: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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