NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has only four unvaccinated players as it opens up the 2021-22 season.
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. “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.
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The expansion Seattle Kraken will be missing a number of players due to Covid-19 protocols for their first game Tuesday night at Las Vegas.
The Lightning have expressed a continuing interest in hosting an outdoor game in Tampa, Florida but the weather conditions in the state remain a major obstacle.
“Do I have severe weather concerns, the answer is yes,” Bettman said. “Weather, particularly in a warm climate can be a challenge, and the safety of the players is paramount. If it were doable, it would be great. We’re just not sure it’s doable because of the weather.”
MacKinnon tests positive
Colorado Avalanche star forward Nathan MacKinnon tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Joe Sakic announced.
Per Sakic, MacKinnon is asymptomatic and will miss at least the Avalanche’s season-opening game against Chicago on Wednesday in Denver.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to test out and get ready. We’re hoping for Saturday [against the visiting St. Louis Blues],” Sakic said, per The Athletic.
MacKinnon, 26, was fourth in the NHL last season with a career-high 1.35 points per game, recording 20 goals and 65 points in 48 games to lead Colorado to the Presidents’ Trophy.
He has recorded 210 goals and 560 points in 573 regular-season appearances since the Avalanche selected him with the top overall pick of the 2013 NHL draft.
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar also was placed in COVID-19 protocol and will miss the game versus the Blackhawks.
Assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt likely will serve as co-bench bosses in place of Bednar, who missed the team’s last two pre-season games against the Dallas Stars.
Bednar, 49, sports a 184-149-39 record in five seasons.
Capitals’ Backstrom on long-term IR
The Washington Capitals placed forward Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve.
The move means Backstrom will be required to miss at least 10 games.
Backstrom, 33, has not participated in training camp while continuing to rehabilitate his left hip. He had arthroscopic surgery in 2015 and previously said his current situation is due to wear and tear.
“There’s a process that you go through,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday. “You start to see guys on the ice, so he was week-to-week. We’re pushing towards the end of what we said, and I think we’re still evaluating him to see where he’s at.
“I spoke with him today and he is improving.”
Backstrom, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $46-million US contract, recorded 15 goals and 53 points in 55 games last season. He has 980 points (258 goals, 722 assists) in 1,011 career contests since the Capitals drafted him fourth overall in 2006.
Canucks ink Chiasson to 1-year deal
The Vancouver Canucks have signed free agent forward Alex Chiasson to a one-year deal worth $750,000 US.
Chiasson, 31, played in four pre-season games with the Canucks after signing a professional tryout contract with the team in September.
“Alex is an established veteran who plays a physical game and brings a valuable net-front presence to our team, particularly on the power play,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. “He’s a bigger player that doesn’t shy away from the tough areas of the ice and has fit in well with the rest of our forward group so far.”
Chiasson recorded nine goals and 16 points in 45 games with the Edmonton Oilers last season.
Overall, the 2018 Stanley Cup champion has collected 101 goals and 202 points in 564 NHL regular-season games with Dallas, Ottawa, Calgary, Washington and Edmonton.