‘Let’s change the name on his jersey to Dr Horvat’: NHL captain earns mixed reaction after urging ‘everybody’ to get Covid vaccine

The captain of an NHL side has triggered a debate after admitting that he rushed to take the Moderna vaccine, urging others to follow his lead "for everybody's safety".

Bo Horvat, the captain of franchise the Vancouver Canucks, revealed that the that the longest trip he has taken during his vacation is a two-hour drive from his London, Ontario residence to the state's biggest city and capital Toronto.

The 26-year-old did not want to hang around until his specific age group had been called to receive the first of two vaccine shots.

"I was phoning around to see if there were clinics that had extra Moderna," the former All-Star Game player explained to explained to Sportsnet.

"I found one just outside Toronto. [I] just drove there, lined up and got vaccinated."

The NHL and the players' union have released protocols for the upcoming campaign that do not force professional players to become vaccinated.

The rules, though, details restrictions and strict consequences such as loss of pay if players become sick or unvailable for their teams – and Hovart expressed surprise at those who would choose not to get the jab.

"Considering everything that's gone on, there are obviously different situations that people get put in and they can be vaccinated or not," the Canadian said.

"But for me, if you're able to get vaccinated, I think you should. I've had Covid before and it's no joke. This vaccine works and it's helping people not get sick. I got [vaccinated] right away, as soon as I could.

"So I encourage everybody to go get it. I think it'll get the world back to normal. Hopefully guys realize that and go get vaccinated – for everybody's safety and health and their family's health."

"No team in the league – maybe a couple of others – know what having Covid is like [as] we do and our families and our kids do," Horvat said, referencing the Canucks squad being ravaged by the disease last season.

"To protect all of them, I encourage everybody to go do it. Hopefully everybody does."

As the center's comments spread online, a familiar debate about to the effectiveness of the jab and how severe covid really is fired up again.

"If the vaccine 'works' and it’s helping people not get sick, what the f*ck does he care if someone vaccinated or not? He’s protected," scoffed one user.

"Let’s change the name on his jersey to Dr Horvat," mocked another.

Others sided with Hovat, with one in disbelief that some players wouldn't want the vaccine or that the powers that be haven't made it an obligation.

"I can’t believe the NHL hasn’t made it mandatory. This virus can derail a team's season. Crazy," they remarked.

"Given that contracting Covid can potentially ruin an athlete's career, it sure isn't a risk that professional athletes should contemplate," said another.

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"That’s the part I don’t get," came a reply. "If you’re anywhere under 33 and in the NHL you should really be evaluating your options here. You could lose out on tens of millions of dollars if it affects your respiratory system."

The controversy follows a similar situation at the Toronto Maple Leafs' affiliate, the Marlies, where goaltending coach Dusty Imoo was fired just three days after being hired in the aftermath of a series of anti-vaccination, pro-Donald Trump views being discovered on his Twitter account.

Some observers remarked that cancel culture had won "yet again" when Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan relieved Imoo of his duties. 

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