By Liz Chang
Here's a controversial topic that's not only a hot button issue in North America, but has also infiltrated the NHL: the H1N1 virus. Given both the impending Winter Olympics, the competitive Western Conference, and the outbreak of the flu virus, it's not too surprising that this would happen (story from Canada's National Post newspaper):
Controversy raged Wednesday over the decision to release H1N1 vaccine to Calgary Flames players and their family members, as an Alberta health authority employee was fired, and the scandal grew to include a farm team for the NHL club.
The province's health authority announced that it had fired the most senior staff member involved in the decision to give the Flames players and relatives the vaccine while many Albertans considered to be at high risk for contracting the virus, including small children, continued to be unable to get shots.
While it's unfair that the players and their families would receive preference over high-risk groups, I can see both sides of the argument. The players operate in an enviroment that is germ-ridden, and therefore the germs could easily pass to their families. Still, as the mother of a young child who was barely able to get her first H1N1 shot (she still needs a booster shot that will be hard to find), I'm troubled that the people who most need the shot were deprived of it.
It's a sign of the times. In a normal flu season, Canadians wouldn't have thought twice about having their beloved professional hockey players vaccinated, especially for those players who would be members of the Canadian Olympic hockey team. But this is not a regular flu season, and the normal rules don't apply. What's most telling is this excerpt from the article:
So far, the Flames are the only Canadian NHL team to be accused of queue-jumping. The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens all told Global National their players will wait until the vaccine is available to the general public.
The Toronto Maple Leafs declined to comment, saying the distribution of shots was an internal matter.
It sounds as though the Leafs have likely received their shots. Seeing as how they have been playing poorly, I'd have thought that the team would want to use the flu as an excuse for why their players were underperforming.
Is it unfair for professional athletes and their families to get flu shots before the general public, and ahead of high-risk groups? What do you think? Feel free to discuss it with me at the sold-out Hockey 'n Heels this Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. It will be a great event, featuring coach Bruce Boudreau and Capitals legend Peter Bondra. Hope to see you there!
Liz Chang (a.k.a. DC Sports Chick) is a writer for On Frozen Blog (http://www.onfrozenblog.com).