Across the major sports leagues, vaccination rates are well above 90 percent for players, but in each there are some notable holdouts. In the NBA, NHL, and MLB, those who have refused to get the vaccine will soon find themselves unable to play games in Canada when they take away the exception for athletes traveling into country.
“As of January 15th, there will no longer be an exemption in place for professional and amateur athletes,” minister of public safety Marco Mendicino said on Friday, via CBC.
Up until now, unvaccinated players were able to travel to Canada for games, but faced significant restrictions, being limited to their hotel and travel to the arena for games. That will no longer be the case come January 15, as those players without valid (and legitimate) vaccination records will be barred from entry to the country. That will obviously have a larger impact on the NHL, where seven of the league’s franchises play in Canada, meaning unvaccinated players could miss a significant portion of the season (and, of course, postseason games potentially).
In the NBA, this only applies to Raptors games (and in MLB with the Blue Jays) but for teams in the Eastern Conference that face Toronto twice, if those games fall in the second half of the season and they haven’t gotten their roster fully vaccinated, they could find themselves shorthanded. Should Toronto make the play-in and/or the playoffs, that would become an even bigger storyline depending on who they face — for example, Bradley Beal of the Wizards would be ineligible to play.
We’ve seen how vaccine mandates in San Francisco and New York have impacted teams, with the Nets playing without Kyrie Irving, while Andrew Wiggins decided to get vaccinated in order to be able to play this season with the Warriors. In those places, the mandates only apply to players who live and work in those cities, but for the Raptors, come January 15, players who aren’t vaccinated will be left at home for road trips to Toronto.