Tyler Bertuzzi is only Red Wings player not vaccinated against COVID, Steve Yzerman announces

Bertuzzi risks missing significant amount of games in Canada, losing pay

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Tyler Bertuzzi #59 of the Detroit Red Wings waits for the face-off during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 11, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) (Timothy T Ludwig, 2020 Getty Images)

Tyler Bertuzzi is the only Detroit Red Wings player not vaccinated against COVID-19, General Manager Steve Yzerman announced Wednesday.

This means Bertuzzi won’t be able to play games in Canada. The Red Wings play nine games in Canada this season.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimated earlier this month that 98% of players will be vaccinated, leaving between 10 and 15 players unvaccinated among roughly 700 on 32 teams. The league and NHL Players’ Association did not impose a vaccine mandate on players, but unvaccinated players will face restrictions such as not being able to cross the border from the U.S. into Canada without a lengthy quarantine. There is a 14-day quarantine requirement for unvaccinated players traveling into 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.”

Moreover, Bertuzzi could be suspended by the team and have some of his pay cut if he is unable to participate in games due to the NHL’s COVID protocols.

This is from the league’s protocol document published Sept. 2, 2021:

“A Club shall have the right to suspend an Unvaccinated Player who is unable to participate with the Club in Club activities and require the Player to forfeit the equivalent of one day’s pay (i.e., 1/200 of their Paragraph 1 NHL Salary for the 2021-22 Season) for each day during which a Player is precluded from participating in Club activities due to either this Protocol or applicable regulations imposed by local, provincial/state, and/or federal health authorities, including if they are more stringent than imposed by this Protocol ... .”

Note: It’s actually nine games in Canada for the Red Wings this season, not eight.

Yzerman spoke to the media a day before the team’s training camp gets started Thursday in Traverse City, Mich. He singled out Bertuzzi, who just signed a two-year contract extension with Detroit, as the only player on the roster who is not vaccinated. He said Bertuzzi has declined the vaccine. Yzerman pointed out he can’t force players to get vaccinated and that he understands it is Bertuzzi’s decision.

“It’s his decision ... that’s the world we live in today. I’m not in a position to force anyone, we can’t force anyone to get vaccinated. I personally am vaccinated, my family is vaccinated. I’ll leave it at that,” Yzerman said. “Tyler has his reasons and I’m sure you’ll get a chance to ask him that question, but I respect the fact that he has a choice and has made that choice, and we’re going to work within the league protocols.”

Despite this, Bertuzzi will be at training camp and is expected to be following guidelines for unvaccinated players. Yzerman said the guidelines, or league protocols, for unvaccinated players are strict.

The Red Wings are scheduled to open the season Oct. 14 at home against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning. Training camp is underway this week followed by the first preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 29 in Chicago. The Red Wings will return to competing in the Atlantic Division with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bertuzzi’s role

Bertuzzi, 26, plays a rather important role as part of Detroit’s developing forward group. He was expected to be part of the roster’s first or second line. He has routinely played on captain Dylan Larkin’s wing the past couple of seasons and has held a position on the power play.

Bertuzzi’s contract extension was announced at the end of July. The deal was reportedly worth $4.75 million each season, placing him among the highest paid players on the team.

Bertuzzi originally was drafted by the Red Wings in 2013 at 58th overall (2nd round). He has 126 points in 208 games since joining the Detroit roster in 2016.

He was injured this past season after signing a one-year deal and missed nearly all of the already pandemic-shortened schedule. He had 7 points in 9 games before retiring due to injury. He then underwent back surgery.