Here in the United States, the vaccination debate is a hot button topic. Like many employers in the U.S.A., many companies are starting to crack down on their employees’ vaccination status. Professional sports leagues are no exception with protocols for both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. This means anything from traveling on separate buses to withholding pay for unvaccinated players who test positive for COVID. But no one, not even me, saw one of the unintended consequences coming and it came from the NHL.

Forced to Quit

The news came down Friday evening that San Jose Sharks assistant coach Rocky Thompson was stepping down from his role.


“Due to a medical exemption that prevents me from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, under the new League protocols, I am unable to fulfil my duties on the Sharks coaching staff at this time. I will have no further comment on this matter.”

Rocky Thompson

Thompson’s playing career saw him split time between the NHL and AHL. His coaching career started in 2007 as an assistant with the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings. He’s bounced around between the NHL and juniors. Thompson was head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in 2017 when they won the Memorial Cup. He was hired as coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves before joining the Sharks’ staff last season. Now, because of the NHL’s new protocols, Thompson is out of a job.

Unintended Consequences in the NHL?

The NHL’s newest vaccination protocol does have a vaccination loophole if the player or coach either objects due to religious reasons or for medical condition. However, unvaccinated personnel are held to higher restrictions than vaccinated personnel. This is anything from increased COVID testing to restricted movement while on the road. The NHL has put the coaches and players in a precarious position with virtually NO pushback from either the coaches or players associations. It’s believed that 90 to 95% of NHL players are currently vaccinated before these new protocols were leaked. Even with the high vaccination rate, will the new NHL protocols bring about unintended consequences?

That remains to be seen on the road to training camps, which start in just a couple of weeks.

I’m Ryan McCarthy, the Hydra at Belly Up Sports (writer, podcast host, and live stream show host). We have a lot more to offer in our NHL coverage at Belly Up Sports. If you want to chirp at me regarding sports, life, or other topics, hit me up on Twitter: @whoisryanmcc. Thanks for reading.
About Author

Ryan McCarthy

Ryan is a veteran of sports blogging since Al Gore invented the Internet. He has spent time with SportsHungry,, and ArenaFan. Ryan is a 2020 graduate of Regent University as a Journalism major. He is also the host of the No Credentials Required podcast.

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