TAMPA, Fla. (AP/KDKA) — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has only four unvaccinated players as it opens up the 2021-22 season.
Bettman was in attendance for the regular-season opener between the back to back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
"Everybody banding together to do the right thing," Bettman said. "Maybe that's why hockey is the ultimate team sport."
Bettman said NHL officials and all the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.
"It's something we take seriously," Bettman said. "Health and safety has been and will continue to be paramount."
There are still COVID-19 cases involving players that are fully vaccinated.
During the preseason, Pens forward Zach Aston-Reese tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, every Penguins player except for one was fully vaccinated, with the one exception waiting for a second shot.
The expansion Seattle Kraken will be missing a number of players due to Covid-19 protocols for their first game Tuesday night at Las Vegas.
The Lightning have expressed a continuing interest in hosting an outdoor game in Tampa, Florida but the weather conditions in the state remain a major obstacle.
"Do I have severe weather concerns, the answer is yes," Bettman said. "Weather, particularly in a warm climate can be a challenge, and the safety of the players is paramount. If it were doable, it would be great. We're just not sure it's doable because of the weather."
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