You're Fired!

Blue Jackets Assistant Coach fired before coaching a game after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sylvain Lefebvre ousted after refusing to get vaccinated

What’s Happening: After being hired as an assistant coach as part of Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen’s staff, Sylvain Lefebvre was terminated from his position after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The hiring of Lefebvre earlier this summer in June makes it one of the shortest assistant coaching tenures ever. No reason was given by Lefebvre for why he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but his firing makes it the first in professional hockey among hockey personnel staff. Bob Boone of the MLB’s Washington Nationals chose to step down from his position in the Nationals front office staff after refusing to get vaccinated in what was an organization-wide policy for staff personnel.

What’s Next: This is clearly an unprecedented move by the Blue Jackets and for any NHL team for that matter. This is the first public and reported case of a member of a coaching staff that is refusing to protect, not only themselves, but other club personnel and the players by not getting vaccinated. Understandably so, Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen was upset at Lefebvre’s decision not to get vaccinated, saying, “While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well.”

With training camp a mere days away, the Blue Jackets moved quickly to replace Lefebvre with a new assistant coach in Steve McCarthy, who has spent the past five seasons working as an assistant coach for the Blue Jackets AHL team. 

The Bigger Picture: No doubt, the NHL’s forced mandatory vaccinations for anyone that interacts with hockey personnel staff would have far-reaching effects were ultimately felt with this firing of Lefebvre. However, as polarizing as this policy may be, it is one the league needs to have in place if they plan on playing a season with as few interruptions as possible. One only needs to remember last season when the New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, and the Vancouver Canucks were snakebitten by a team-wide COVID outbreak.

With COVID not completely in the rearview mirror of NHL teams and the world at large, having a mandatory vaccination policy for club personnel will only help to keep players and club staff safe. A bigger question remains, however. At what point will the NHL make taking the COVID vaccine mandatory for players? If they are willing to take that drastic step to make it mandatory for anyone who interacts with club personnel, why hasn’t the NHL extended this policy to everyone within an NHL organization? 

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