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Robin Lehner: NHL cares more for competitive edge than human lives

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The Golden Knights’ goalie spoke out toward the league on not being honest with its vaccination policy.

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by David Becker/NHLI

Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner called out the NHL for not being honest in terms of the league’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, particularly on restrictions that are still in place.

Lehner said when the Golden Knights were approached with the option of taking the vaccine, that there would be a new set of guidelines that would ease the limitations set for players around the league.

But according to Lehner, after calls with the NHL and the NHL Players Association on Tuesday, the league is surveying teams to see who has, and hasn’t, been vaccinated to ensure that there is no competitive advantage among the teams.

“That made me go crazy, to be honest,” Lehner said. “That shows me that now I’ve taken the vaccine, and it’s been a hard time, speaking for myself personally, throughout this COVID thing with my mental health condition, 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.

“And I talked to players around the league who called me, also people I’ve helped throughout the program and get help and all that stuff, I know more than a lot of people know what’s going on. And they’re talking about competitive edge instead of human lives. We’re humans, too.”

Lehner’s track record discussing mental health has not fallen on deaf ears. It’s also been something he’s talked often during the pandemic; thoughts he echoed during his unprompted near-11-minute discussion on the matter.

While there is no clear vaccination policy in place from the league, the NHL’s quarantine policy says players and personnel “will be required to remain at home and not leave their place of residence except to attend practices and games, to exercise outdoors on an individual basis, to perform essential activities.” The same goes for spouses, partners, etc.

Lehner said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get the vaccine, but did so for his mental health. He added that the NHL was approached with a similar proposal that of the NBA: If 85 percent of the league’s players got vaccinated, then restrictions would ease up.

“To be promised something’s going to change if you take a vaccine where some players were on the verge of not even taking it,” he said. “Now that I did it, now they changed, and they say it’s not happening, I think that’s wrong.”

A majority of Golden Knights players have already been vaccinated, owner Bill Foley said March 30. Lehner, who has Bipolar I, said people have reached out to him throughout the pandemic — players and everyday people — on how to deal with the mental health impact through COVID.

“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 we can start getting back to normalcy because the problem’s going to be huge,” Lehner said. “But being lied to us about things changing, trying to force us to take the vaccine, unacceptable. 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.”

Lehner took to Twitter afterward to thread more thoughts, as well as clarify some of the remarks he made.