The Blackhawks’ players, coaches and staff are 100% vaccinated, general manager Stan Bowman said Thursday as training camp began.
“It’s pretty challenging if you have players that aren’t vaccinated as far as day-to-day activities. So from the logistical side, it’s much easier,” Bowman said. “But also it’s a sign of the players’ commitment to try to be safe.”
The Hawks won’t have to deal with any of the NHL’s strict guidelines for unvaccinated players, which separate them from their teammates in virtually all settings.
The Hawks also won’t have to deal with absent players on Canadian road trips. Unvaccinated players must quarantine whenever crossing the border.
“It’s nice to not have to think about that as much and be closer to normal life,” Connor Murphy said. “I think it’ll hit us when we have the fans back at the United Center, just hearing that noise and atmosphere. It will be a night-and-day difference than last year.”
The NHL is pacing well above most other major sports leagues in vaccination rate. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimated last week that there are only 10-15 unvaccinated players left.
First look at lines
The Hawks’ lines and pairs likely will change significantly in the next three weeks, but Thursday provided a glimpse at coach Jeremy Colliton’s initial ideas.
Tyler Johnson centered Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the first line, while Jonathan Toews centered Brandon Hagel and Dominik Kubalik.
Top prospect Lukas Reichel also practiced in Group A, skating alongside Kirby Dach and Philipp Kurashev. Dylan Strome was on the wing of fourth-liners Ryan Carpenter and Jujhar Khaira.
Defensively, new additions Seth Jones and Jake McCabe were paired together. Connor Murphy skated with Riley Stillman, Calvin de Haan with Wyatt Kalynuk and Caleb Jones with Nicolas Beaudin.
Adam Gaudette, Alex Nylander, Ian Mitchell and Malcolm Subban practiced alongside the prospects and AHL players in Groups B and C.