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As the public health situation worsens for NHL teams located north of the border, another U.S.-based organization has reached the finish line — or at least a highly important checkpoint — in this pandemic season.
The New York Rangers apparently cancelled practice on Wednesday to allow players and staff members to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccination.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post obtained this statement from the team:
"With the COVID-19 vaccine now extended to anyone over 16, we're excited that many of our players and staff opted to get vaccinated. We applaud New York's efforts to expand eligibility and encourage our fans to get vaccinated."
If nothing else, this is tremendous news for the Rangers and their staff, who, like all NHL teams, have been navigating the uncertain realities of playing a season while a deadly virus threatens global health. It should put the players, personnel, and their families at ease, knowing they can perform their duties in a far safer space, as all-important immunity courses through their veins.
Beyond that, though, this is an important bit of transparency from a professional sports team, and something we should hear more about. First things first: if this changes one person's opinion on vaccine efficacy, it's worth it.
On a larger scale, what it also should do is influence public perception on sports leagues, which have to this point trudged through this pandemic, in some cases somewhat blindly. Knowing many clubs have, or will soon be administering the vaccine, we can all breathe a little easier. This information being shrouded in secrecy does nothing to quell the uneasy feeling many have experienced with sports being played amid a pandemic, and there shouldn't be one ounce of guilt associated with reaching the finish line.
I mean, why are we finding out about Rick Bowness's COVID-19 jab, only after the Dallas Stars head coach was pulled from the bench with a false positive?
The reason, one would surmise, that the Rangers have been the exception with regards to information on the vaccination process is that this is far from an equitable situation. While we can assume that most professional sports teams in the United States have or will soon have doses administered, Canadian-based organizations in particular are a long way away from sharing in that luxury.
What was safe haven for the league last summer is now the area of utmost concern as Canada has fallen behind in the vaccination process, and this will remain a major storyline for the remainder of this season.
But it seems teams south of the border are in a far better spot now than they have been.
And it's worth celebrating, or at least not keeping secret.
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