With the ink barely dried on Sylvain Lefebvre’s new contract as the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ assistant coach, the team announced Monday that he was relieved of his duties for his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lefebvre, who played 14 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL, was fired after just signing a new deal as the team’s assistant coach in June.
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“While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well,” club general manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement.
Todd Sharrock, the team’s vice president of communications, told NBC News that decision came as a result of the league’s updated COVID protocols earlier this month.
“Protocols were sent to clubs at the beginning of September,” he said. “The protocols state in part that ‘any person whose job, role, position or access entails or entitles them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) with Club Hockey Operations personnel (including Players) must be fully vaccinated.’”
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The NHL announced stricter policies for the 2021-2022 season in which unvaccinated players could be suspended without pay if they cannot participate in team activities. Fully vaccinated players will have any COVID-19 positives treated as hockey injuries and still be paid.
Players will not be mandated to get the vaccine but coaches and other team staff who work closely with them will.
League officials estimated that between 90 and 95% of players are fully vaccinated or will be before training camps begin later this month.
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Lefebvre, 53, played for the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and the Colorado Avalanche, where he won the Stanley Cup in 1996.
He began his coaching career in 2009. He will be replaced by former NHL defenseman Steve McCarthy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.