Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner blasts NHL over COVID-19 vaccine protocols

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner blasted the NHL over its handling of its COVID-19 vaccination policy, saying the league went back on promises made about easing restrictions and calling it "totally unacceptable."

During a press conference Wednesday, Lehner spoke for almost 11 minutes and claims that the NHL backed off a promise that would allow players to have some social gatherings when a certain threshold would receive the vaccine.

"That was a lie," Lehner said. "A blatant lie."

The NHL pushed back on Lehner's characterization of the matter.

"Nobody from the league has communicated to any player or club that any of our COVID protocols would be 'relaxed' for any player once he is vaccinated," a league spokesman said.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner blocks a shot during a April 9, 2021 game.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner blocks a shot during a April 9, 2021 game.

The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have set vaccination thresholds to relax some protocols, such as mask-wearing and prohibition of outdoor dining, when a certain percentage of team personnel are fully inoculated against COVID-19. Those leagues have all teams currently playing in the U.S., where everyone 16 and older can get a vaccine.

"Look at the NBA, NFL and the other leagues," Lehner said. "They’ve already implemented these things. And now we are, we are vaccinated and we’re still going to be trapped in a prison."

Lehner later apologized for using the term "prison."

The central issue Lehner had is that he said players were shown and "promised" to have the NBA's COVID protocol plan and that "a new set of rules are going to come out" when "X amount of players" around the league would get vaccinated.

Lehner said, however, that when he spoke to members of the NHL and the NHL Players' Association on Tuesday, he was told that restrictions would not be changing.

"They told me yesterday that they're surveying all the teams to see who has taken the vaccine, and who has not taken the vaccines, and they're not going to change the rules for us as players until all the teams have the vaccine at the same time so it's not a competitive edge," Lehner said.

"That made me go crazy to be honest. I speak for myself personally, it has been a tremendously hard time going through this COVID situation for my mental health situation, being in isolation, getting these rules, I can't do anything but be in my home, all the time, be in a hotel room, all the time. They’re talking about competitive edge instead of human lives. Competitive edge, human lives. We’re humans, too."

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner rips NHL for vaccine protocol