Blue Jackets ban Zac Rinaldo from training camp for refusing to get COVID vaccine


The Columbus Blue Jackets have disinvited Zac Rinaldo from training camp because the 31-year-old NHL forward has refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Rinaldo, a nine-year NHL veteran who spent the last two seasons with Calgary,  will begin the season with the Blue Jackets’ minor league affiliate in Cleveland.

‘Forward Zac Rinaldo, who we signed to a two-way contract this summer, is not vaccinated and because of that — and that’s his decision — the plan is to start him in the American Hockey League and he will not be coming to our training camp,’ team president John Davison told reporters before training camp opens on Wednesday.

‘We’re going to have 67 players in our camp and they’re all going to be vaccinated,’ Davidson continued. ‘Everything we do, we do together as a team.’

As general manager Jarmo Kekalainen put it, ‘the ball is in [Rinaldo’s] court right now.’

The Columbus Blue Jackets have disinvited forward Zac Rinaldo from training camp because the 31-year-old NHL veteran has refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Rinaldo, a nine-year NHL veteran who spent the last two seasons with Calgary, will begin the season with the Blue Jackets' minor league affiliate in Cleveland

The Columbus Blue Jackets have disinvited forward Zac Rinaldo from training camp because the 31-year-old NHL veteran has refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Rinaldo, a nine-year NHL veteran who spent the last two seasons with Calgary, will begin the season with the Blue Jackets’ minor league affiliate in Cleveland

In August, the 31-year-old Rinaldo signed a two-way deal, which allows the Blue Jackets to move him between the NHL club and its AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters. But while Rinaldo’s NHL salary would be $750,000, he’d make only $275,000 playing in the minors, according to CapFriendly.com.

Rinaldo disapproves of vaccine mandates, and voiced support for the People’s Party of Canada at a September 16 rally in Hamilton, Ontario because the group opposes injection requirements, according to ESPN. 

The decision follows a similar move from Friday in which the Blue Jackets dismissed assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre because he, too, refused to get vaccinated.

‘Lefebvre has decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and thus will not be able to perform the duties required of him given current NHL protocols,’ read the team statement.

Now-former Blue Jackets assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre was replaced on coach Brad Larsen's staff by Steve McCarthy because "Lefebvre has decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and thus will not be able to perform the duties required of him given current NHL protocols," according to a team statement

Now-former Blue Jackets assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre was replaced on coach Brad Larsen’s staff by Steve McCarthy because ‘Lefebvre has decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and thus will not be able to perform the duties required of him given current NHL protocols,’ according to a team statement

NHL coaches and other team staff who closely interact with players are required to be fully vaccinated. 

The league and NHL Players’ Association did not impose a vaccine mandate on players, but restrictions — including the potential of not being able to cross the border from the US into Canada without a lengthy quarantine — contributed to the number.  

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimates that 98 percent of players will be vaccinated, leaving between 10 and 15 players without among roughly 700 on 32 teams across North America.

‘People can make their own decisions, but the right one would be to get vaccinated,’ Trouba said Thursday at the annual NHL/NHLPA player media tour. ‘I think it’s great that it’s come this way, and hopefully we get 15 more guys vaccinated.’ 

As Rinaldo learned Tuesday, teams will be able to suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities as part of the protocols, which could include games in Canada.

‘If you’re unvaccinated, you’re on a U.S. team, you’re traveling to Canada to play games in Canada, there is no exception at this point for that player to be exempted from a 14-day quarantine,’ Daly told The Associated Press. ‘Most of our U.S. clubs aren’t doing 14-day road trips into Canada (so) that player typically would be left home because he can’t participate if he goes to Canada. So, those are the types of disruptions that we’ll see with unvaccinated players.’

Fully vaccinated players will have any COVID-19 positives treated as hockey injuries and still be paid. Unvaccinated players also will have their movements restricted when on the road. And there will still be regular coronavirus testing for vaccinated players.

‘I think that’s been an incentive and a motivator for most players to to become fully vaccinated, even if they had concerns about it,’ Daly said. ‘But it was intended to be that.’

Three teams — Calgary, Toronto and Carolina — have confirmed all their players are vaccinated, and Philadelphia expects to be at 100 percent soon.

‘That’s the path that most people have chosen now within the league, which is good,’ Trouba said. ‘And, personally, I’m fine with the restrictions that they have put in place.’

Coaches and staff must be vaccinated as a condition of employment.



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