Many of Detroit Red Wings receive COVID-19 vaccine; here's why Darren Helm hasn't yet

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Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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The Detroit Red Wings are taking advantage of having access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pandemic ripped through the locker room on opening weekend, forcing five players into quarantine. One spent training camp dealing with it — and that’s left him leaning toward postponing getting the vaccine until after the season ends.

The majority of Wings players, the coaching staff and other staff within the so-called team bubble have been vaccinated, including head coach Jeff Blashill.

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“I have empathy for anybody around the world that doesn’t have access to it,” Blashill said Tuesday. “It’s beyond the NHL and bigger than the NHL. We feel fortunate that we have access to it. There’s countries in the world that do and some that don’t have as much, and I feel empathy for any of those.”

Unlike Major League Baseball, the NHL has not issued a directive to teams regarding possibly loosening restrictions when or if a team has a majority of players fully vaccinated. Blashill said that as the vaccine became available, the team’s medical personnel was available to answer questions.

[ 246 fully vaccinated Michiganders got COVID-19 between January and March, state reports ]

Darren Helm battled the virus during the exhibition season and has yet to schedule an appointment for the vaccine.

“I'm not against it,” he said. “I had COVID early on, so I’m hoping I still have antibodies. I don’t really want to put that extra stress on my body. When the season is over, I’ll probably take a look at it.”

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Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner and Jon Merrill also have had to quarantine after testing positive.

“I think the hard part about what we’ve been through is this virus hits people different ways,” Blashill said. “And some people haven’t been affected when they get the virus and other people have been very affected. The same thing with the vaccine — some people have had it and been affected and some haven’t.

“Different people have different opinions and we certainly respect that. This is still an individual choice thing and those that decided it was the right thing for them, which ultimately will be a majority, decided it was the right thing for them, and those that didn’t, I respect that.”

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and players, including Tyler Bertuzzi (59), watch during the third period of the 4-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill and players, including Tyler Bertuzzi (59), watch during the third period of the 4-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

The NHL instituted a number of guidelines this season to be able to stage a 56-game schedule. Team personnel including players, the coaches, trainers and select management — the “bubble” — are tested daily. On the road, players have meals in their hotel rooms, and are only supposed to socialize in select areas. All meetings are conducted virtually, as is all media interviews. Players have to wear masks unless they are on the ice, and everyone else in the bubble is required to wear one at all times while at an arena.

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Guidelines were further restricted a few weeks into the season after a rash of positive tests across the league, further encouraging team personnel to limit exposure when not at arenas.

The biggest COVID-19 outbreak within the league, as of Monday, was in Vancouver, as the Canucks have 17 of their 22 players on their active roster on the NHL protocol list. They have had four games postponed since last week as of Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to as many people in our country and around the world getting vaccinated as quick as possible so we can get back to as close to normal as we can,” Blashill said. “There’s been ebbs and flows through this pandemic — there’s been moments where you think you’re headed in the right direction and then all of a sudden it looks like you’re not. The one consistent thing, I think, is that the more people that can get vaccinated, the better chance we can get all living closer to normal. I hope as many people can get it as quickly as possible.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Many Detroit Red Wings get COVID-19 vaccine; why Darren Helm hasn't yet