NHL faces backlash over report league wants to buy COVID-19 vaccines for players

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Will rich, fit, young hockey players be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the rest of us?

The NHL is taking a beating after a report suggesting the league wants to make a private purchase of vaccine for the next season.

James Cybulski with Sportsnet 650 says that has sparked quite a backlash, even after the hockey commentator who first broke the story later clarified the league did not want to cut to the front of the line and would only make a private purchase of vaccine if and when it was possible.

“It is understandable. Look, we’ve seen a million and half people around the world die as a result of COVID-19, and to hear that a vaccine is available and then have the optics of the rich jumping the line, it really is a bad look,” Cybulski tells NEWS 1130.

“It feels like all these healthy, fit athletes in their 20s are maybe getting priority over the elderly and people in poor health who might need it sooner, but we need to look at the details. We ultimately learned this not really the case after the initial, vague report.”

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However, Cybulski says nobody should be surprised that a professional sports league would look at the idea of obtaining a supply of vaccine for its athletes.

“The National Hockey League is a $4-5-billion a year operation and there is no question they want fans back in the stands. They want their players to be fine and not have to worry about missing time like we’ve seen in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and in the NBA. They want to get back to normal and they will try to look at any way to make that possible,” he points out

“The question is just what amount of the vaccine is available, but I think we should also take a look at the idea of who would be providing it. I mean, pharmaceutical companies are also in this to make money at some point. That’s something else we have to be mindful of here.”

Fans react

NHL fans were quick to react to the report.

“I can’t express how disappointed I am to hear this. If this is in any way true, I will never watch the NHL again,” one twitter user wrote.

“I love hockey as much as the next person, but until our doctors, nurses, front line workers, emergency responders, teachers, essential retail employees, etc etc have their chance at the vaccine, this is disgusting,” another responded.

Others opted to take a “bigger picture” view of the situation, with one Twitter user saying, “It’s only adds up to a couple hundred doses, in the grand scheme of things really not a dent in the supply.”

Health Canada approved a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech on Wednesday, with distribution initially set to go to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

That includes the elderly, long-term care home residents and staff, front-line health workers, and Indigenous communities.

The first doses are expected to arrive as early as next week.

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