All Blackhawks players and coaches are vaccinated against COVID-19, general manager Stan Bowman said Thursday as training camp began.
“It’s pretty challenging if you have players that aren’t vaccinated as far as day-to-day activities, so from the logistical side of it, it’s much easier,” Bowman said. “But also it’s just a sign of the players’ commitment to try to be safe.”
As a result, the Hawks won’t have to deal with any of the NHL’s strict guidelines for unvaccinated players, which separate them from their teammates in virtually all settings.
The Hawks also won’t have to deal with absent players on Canadian road trips, as unvaccinated players must quarantine whenever crossing the border.
“It’s nice to not have to think about that as much and be closer to normal life,” Connor Murphy said. “I think it’ll hit us when we have the fans back at the United Center, just…hearing that noise and atmosphere. It will be a night-and-day difference than last year.”
The NHL is pacing well above most other major sports leagues in vaccination rate, with deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimating last week there are only 10-15 unvaccinated players left.
Ex-Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith is currently missing the start of Oilers training camp because he only recently received his shot; Oilers GM Ken Holland told reporters it was a “difficult decision” for Keith.
First look at lines
The Hawks’ lines and pairs will likely change significantly over the next three weeks, but Thursday provided a glimpse at coach Jeremy Colliton’s initial ideas.
Tyler Johnson centered Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the first forward line, while Jonathan Toews centered Brandon Hagel and Dominik Kubalik. Top prospect Lukas Reichel also practiced in group A, skating alongside Kirby Dach and Philipp Kurashev. Dylan Strome found himself on the wing of fourth-liners Ryan Carpenter and Jujhar Khaira.
Defensively, new additions Seth Jones and Jake McCabe were paired together, while Connor Murphy skated with Riley Stillman, Calvin de Haan with Wyatt Kalynuk and Caleb Jones with Nicolas Beaudin.
Adam Gaudette, Alex Nylander, Ian Mitchell and Malcolm Subban notably practiced alongside the prospects and AHL players in groups B and C.