What’s Happening: It was recently revealed last week that there was a “notable” player on the New Jersey Devils who was still unvaccinated. It has since been announced that the player is starting netminder, Mackenzie Blackwood.
To say that Blackwood is a notable player on the Devils is an understatement. Despite having a down year last season, Blackwood has been viewed by the Devils organization as playing a big role in the club’s rebuilding efforts. With the massive offseason acquisition of defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the Devils clearly viewed themselves as ready to take the next step and challenge for a playoff spot. Blackwood would have obviously played a critical role in those goals, but as the start of the season quickly approaches, we’ll have to wait and see if he eventually gets vaccinated.
What This Means: If Blackwood chooses to remain unvaccinated when the 2021-22 regular season starts, it will obviously have a major impact on the Devils. As we mentioned, Blackwood is the Devils’ forecasted starting goalie, and the number of games he will play this season will depend on his vaccination status.
For example: If Blackwood is not vaccinated by the time the season starts, he will be unable to travel to his native Canada to play in any games north of the border. Furthermore, there will be some NHL arenas, such as Madison Square Garden, that will require anyone who enters the building to be vaccinated. It’s unclear whether this applies to NHL players as of yet. If it does, there could be other NHL arenas that follow this mandate, and this would prevent Blackwood from playing in those arenas as well. Clearly, this will have a tremendous impact on the Devils’ season if their starting goalie chooses to remain unvaccinated.
The Bigger Picture: Blackwood’s vaccination status is important because not only is he a notable player on the Devils team, but the NHL is also striving for a 100% vaccination rate by the time the season starts.
There have been a few vaccine holdouts already including Zac Rinaldo and Tyler Bertuzzi. Oddly enough, Blackwood shares the same agent, Todd Reynolds, as Rinaldo and Bertuzzi, so make of that what you will. Blackwood’s vaccination status is also important because this will all but eliminate him from contention for a spot on Team Canada’s Olympic roster. Blackwood is in the running to secure one of the three goalie spots on Team Canada, and if he is unvaccinated, he will not be selected.
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