Unvaccinated Players Could Miss Games and Paychecks (And Other Blackhawks Bullets)

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Unvaccinated Players Could Miss Games and Paychecks (And Other Blackhawks Bullets)

Chicago Blackhawks

I heard a term about the month of August when it comes to the hockey world yesterday that I’m going to steal as my own: Tumbleweed season.

It’s true. This is the point of the summer in the NHL when there’s a lull in major news and we await the start of training camps in September and the beginning of the season in October. Although, last year was the exception to what will henceforth be known here at Bleacher Nation as Tumbleweed season, as the NHL setup playoff “bubbles” in Edmonton and Toronto in order to conduct the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While I hate to continue to bring up COVID, it’s trending to be a topic that we in the sports world and real world won’t be able to get away from as case numbers increase in the later half of summer.

•   The NHL recently sent out a memo to teams notifying them that team or venue employees that will have close contact with team personnel and/or players will need to have been vaccinated. On Saturday, we learned of what the NHL Players Association will be urging players to do regarding vaccination.

•   According to Kate Strang and Michael Russo of The Athletic, the NHLPA is urging players to be vaccinated ahead of the 2021-22 season and that players could be at-risk of losing game checks if they remain unvaccinated and are the reason for schedule changes if an outbreak of cases happens.

•   From Russo and Strang’s report:

The NHLPA, according to one agent, has tried to paint a realistic picture for players about potential barriers should they decide not to get vaccinated.

In essence, the message imparted to players was that they have the right to decide whether they get vaccinated or not, but private employers also have the right to put protocols in place. If a player is not willing to adhere to those protocols and it impacts his work duties, it could impact his ability to collect his full salary.

•   As it states throughout the report with comments from players and agents, the threat of players potentially losing money, the tune of the minority of players in the league who remain unvaccinated will likely change.

•   Ultimately, in a sport that prides and romanticizes itself over the idea of doing everything for the team and not the individual,  I would find it unlikely that teams will be OK with other players not being vaccinated if it causes issues to the schedule or to their teammates pocketbooks.

•   In these times, teams would be well-served to have quality leadership on and off the ice. Speaking of which, I took a look at the possible players who will be part of the Blackhawks leadership group next season after the losses of players like Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith this summer.

•   One player not mentioned because I was focusing on players who would be wearing letters, is newly acquired goaltender Marc-André Fleury. The player known as “Flower” has always been regarded as one of the best teammates any player in the league could ask to be around. He may end up being in Chicago for just one season, but that impact could potentially setup the rest of the future leadership group with another shining example to go alongside future Hall of Famers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

•   Speaking of Kane, these lists are always fun and we see that the Blackhawks star is atop of the highest scoring players of the 2010’s…

•   While this is an awesome graphic if you’re a Blackhawks fan, it’s not entirely correct. I don’t know the criteria was for “@NHLEurope” in deciding what is the 2010’s, but these numbers do not reflect the point totals from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019, which I would consider the 2010’s in the hockey world.

•   In that timeframe, here would be the top ten scorers according to NHL.com:

1. Patrick Kane – 802 points
2. Sidney Crosby – 788 points
3. Alexander Ovechkin – 780 points
4. Claude Giroux – 737 points
5. Steven Stamkos – 719 points
6. John Tavares – 716 points
7. Nicklas Bäckström – 700 points
8. Evgeni Malkin – 698 points
9. Phil Kessel – 697 points
10. Anze Kopitar – 682 points
15. Jonathan Toews – 627 points
69. Duncan Keith – 429 points
85. Patrick Sharp – 412 points
94. Marian Hossa – 401 points

•   And if it were even-strength points in that same 2010’s timeframe, Patrick Kane would still lead the league with 559 points, with Jonathan Toews ranking ninth with 450 points. Toews also ranks fifth in the league in short-handed points in the 2010’s with 26 and Marian Hossa ranks eighth with 23 short-handed points. You know, just for fun.

•   Well the most recent former-Blackhawks turns 21 today…

•   That makes the 2017 first-round pick and the 2018 first-round pick (one of two that year) traded away from Chicago. I’m not saying losing Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist is going to come back and bite the Blackhawks in the ass, but it just might. It probably will.

•   Closing on a good note when it comes to young future building-block players in Chicago sports, this Justin Fields kid seems like he’s going to be a good one…

•   I’m happy for Lu with Bleacher Nation Bears. And I give it until NFL Week 4 for Justin Fields to be the Bears’ starting quarterback.

•   That will do it for today. Enjoy your Sunday!

•   Also, after missing last week, we will return to having a Monday Mailbag segment tomorrow. So be sure to send your Blackhawks questions to #BNHawksMailbag on Twitter and we will get them answered!

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.