With training camp about to begin, media day is a significant landmark. Players and general managers will face the media to address the moves made over the summer, prospect camps, and other things surrounding the respective clubs. The emergence of the Coronavirus gives journalists more questions to ask. Now, with the vaccine available for NHL players to receive, that’s another item fans and media are curious about, considering how rigorous the protocols were last season.
Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman made his inaugural appearance of the season, and sure enough, the first question he faced was about the team’s vaccination status. His response? All of the team is vaccinated beside Tyler Bertuzzi, who made a choice not to take it. Naturally, it got Twitter and other social media sites talking, and the repercussions from the decision became abundantly clear.
Bertuzzi and Canada
Canada’s rules since the start of the pandemic have been stringent. From complete lockdowns to minimal presence from front-line workers at hockey games, you won’t see cities like Toronto or Montreal with flooded streets anytime soon. One of the biggest things that people picked up on was traveling to Canada for games. You can’t get across the border without being fully vaccinated.
What does that mean for Bertuzzi? He won’t play. The team will play the first road trip to Montreal without him, and it will continue from there. It also means that he forfeits the pay from those games. Being in a division with three Canadian teams also means that the team will play them more than they would outside of the division. Of course, he will be able to play when they come to Detroit, but he will not be there in the nine games they go on the road to Canada.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the organization or on the team, especially his linemates, are happy with his decision. Due to injuries, Bertuzzi didn’t play much in 2020-21, and him missing more games does no good for the team. He scored seven points in nine games in 2020-21, including five goals, and he hit the 45 point plateau in the two seasons prior. He won’t kill you with his scoring touch, but as an opponent, you have to be aware when he’s out there. He has been a crucial member of the top line ever since he started playing with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.
His presence in front of the net never goes unnoticed, and his ability to stir it up with players and get in their heads is a crucial piece to his puzzle. Missing that for even nine games could be detrimental to the team’s overall chemistry on the ice due to constant line shuffling. It will be tough if some injuries hit the forward core, and they are already missing him.
Rigorous Protocols for the Unvaccinated
The NHL came out with its set of protocols, and like the NFL and most other professional sports leagues, the unvaccinated have a rough slate ahead of them. It’s not mandatory to receive the vaccine, but if you don’t, your life both on and off the ice is going to be a struggle. It’s going to be the same for Bertuzzi.
The first thing is he can’t go out to eat with the team. While this might seem like a minor convenience, professional athletes can attest that this is not the case. The Red Wings are at a crucial stage in their team’s development, and any chance that you can get to be around your linemates and teammates is a blessing. Bertuzzi will not be there. The young players need role models, and they won’t be able to make themselves one. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what has to happen.
The biggest (and most motivating) thing is the loss of pay. Every day they miss with the virus, or do not cross the Canadian border, they are not paid. There are exceptions for players who don’t take the vaccine due to religion and medical conflicts, but that is not the case with Bertuzzi, so he is subject to loss of pay for each day he misses.
Assistant Captaincy Falling Out of the Picture
With the buying out of Frans Nielsen, there’s a vacancy as an assistant captain. The Grind Line crew voted and wrote an article specifically on this topic, and Bertuzzi was tied with Sam Gagner to get the letter. It has to be asked, does not getting vaccinated mean that he loses his chance at a leadership position?
No one wants a leader that doesn’t show up or is disconnected from team activities. Due to protocols, that will be the state of Bertuzzi unless he decides that he’s sick of it and gets the vaccine. It would also surprise no one if there were a bit of tension in the locker room due to his decision. That doesn’t sound like the kind of leader you want on the team if you’re head coach Jeff Blashill, or anyone in the suites.
Not only is the team chemistry being screwed up, but so is Bertuzzi’s end-of-the-year check, and possible leadership opportunities. Many believe that this is incentive enough to get the vaccine anyway, but some players still opted out. Yzerman, in his presser, made sure to emphasize that it is Bertuzzi’s choice at the end of the day, and even with the possible ramifications, he will still be a team member and attend training camp. The choice was his to make, and he did what he thought was right. However, freedom of choice does not mean freedom from consequence, and that’s where we’re at right now across all professional sports.
Jeff is a consistent source for Red Wings content at The Hockey Writers. He was formerly a member of the Predators writing team, and he enjoys watching all sorts of hockey, from juniors to the pros. Jeff enjoys playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville as well. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here or check out his contributions on his Substack, Last Word on Hockey, On the Forecheck, Broad Street Hockey, Hockey Wilderness, and Puck Empire. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions, you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.