The Seattle Kraken have yet to play a game in the National Hockey League. On the eve of their debut, five players have already been sidelined by a relentless enemy: the league’s Covid-19 protocols.
The team, which plays its first regular season game on Tuesday night against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, has not disclosed any details on what specifically caused the players to be deactivated, including whether they tested positive for Covid .
During a call with reporters on Monday, Dave Hakstol, the team’s head coach, was asked why it appeared the team had lost four men in training. Mr Hakstol said four players – Marcus Johansson, Jared McCann, Jamie Oleksiak and Joonas Donskoi – were not on the ice due to Covid protocols. Calle Jarnkrok was already known to be absent because of the protocols.
“Things happen quickly, and sometimes at inappropriate times there are different challenges during the season,” said Hakstol. “He’s one of them for us from the start.”
Coach recognizes obstacles posed by sidelined players. “We have decisions to make during the day,” he said. “We will and we will be ready to play as we arrive in Vegas tonight and ready to go tomorrow.”
Deputy league commissioner Bill Daly estimated in September that 98% of players will be vaccinated against the virus, leaving only a handful of the league’s 700 players unprotected, the Associated Press reported. Kraken general manager Ron Francis said at the start of training camp that the entire squad roster had been vaccinated, according to The AP
The NHL published detailed protocols in September encouraging players to get vaccinated, ideally with a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. “Quite simply,” the league said, “vaccination is the most effective measure to protect against infection with Covid-19”.
Clubs have the right to suspend an unvaccinated player who cannot play due to local protocols or regulations and also to suspend the player’s salary.