On Wednesday, Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner called out the NHL, saying the league is not staying true to previous promises surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. Lehner claims the league told players if they got vaccinated restrictions would be loosened, but says that hasn't been the case.
Lehner says the NHL forced the players to get the coronavirus vaccine and they were misled by what changes would be made if they agreed.
Following Lehner's comments, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN that no such promises were made to the league's players.
"It's been a matter that's been raised and discussed as between us and the NHLPA, but no decision to modify has ever been made nor communicated to anyone," Daly told ESPN.
The NHL Players Association said that the 2021 season has been a difficult one and they've had to alter COVID-19 protocols along the way. The league maintains its position that there was never a direct correlation between getting the vaccine and protocols being relaxed.
Lehner claimed that even though NHL players are vaccinated, they're still being treated as though they're "trapped in a prison."
The Golden Knights goaltender added concerns about what the restrictions can do to mental health, saying as someone with a bipolar diagnosis, isolation is something he was told not to do. Lehner says the league is picking "competitive edge" over the treatment of players.
"At some point we've got to start looking at the mental health of people around us, not just the NHL, but everyone in society and see how can we start getting back to normalcy, because the problem is going to be huge. But lying to us about things changing to kind of forcing us to take the vaccine. Unacceptable. And now that we've taken the vaccine to have the excuse of saying, 'Nah, we're not changing because of competitive advantage.' It's outrageous."
He continued, saying, "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 players have the vaccine at the same time so it's not a competitive edge."
Lehner said the latest news made him "go crazy." He clarified some of his comments on Twitter and continue to emphasize the importance of mental health.
To put competitive edge before well being of people lives is wrong. As I said people are struggling with many different things mentally and we need to consider that as well. Then being lied to makes it worse. I love hockey and the league has done a lot of good things.— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) April 21, 2021
I hope we can all work together to help people that suffers trough mental help from this going forward. I’ve heard how a lot of people are doing trough this as people talk to me about it.— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) April 21, 2021
In February, the league sent a memo to those in the league, including coaches and staff, saying they "shall remain at home and not leave except to attend practice or games or perform essential activities." They also said families of the players should limit time out of the house for less chance of exposure.