All Philadelphia Flyers players and staff members will be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the time the team plays its first regular-season game Oct. 15 against the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center, general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday.
“We’ll be fully vaccinated for the start of the season,” Fletcher said. “We’re basically there now. We’ve had a great response from staff and players, and we’re looking forward to having a much more normal season than last year.”
Based on COVID-19 protocols set by the NHL and its players’ association, teams could suspend unvaccinated players who can’t participate in club activities. There are some exceptions, such as players being unvaccinated because of religious or health reasons.
The Flyers had numerous players contract the coronavirus during their disappointing 2021 season.
Fletcher also said fans will be allowed to watch veteran training camp when it starts Sept. 23. It will be the first time fans have been allowed at practices in Voorhees since March of 2020.
“I can’t wait to see the fans here on the 23rd,” Fletcher said. “Even just having some energy in our building, our practice rink. It’s huge. We’re only in this game because of the fans. I mean, they support us; they foot the bill, so to speak, and we all make a living off of it.”
When fans were allowed to attend some games last season, the crowds were limited because of COVID-19 restrictions. This season, the Flyers are planning to open the Wells Fargo Center to full capacity.
“Once we let fans back in the building last year, there was some energy, but there’s no question, having fans in there adds a whole different element,” Fletcher said. “Like many of you folks who have been watching college football and the NFL the last couple weekends ... it’s just crazy what a different atmosphere it can be when there’s a full house and people in there pulling for you. So I know our players are extremely excited about getting back and hopefully having a mostly normal season.”
Fletcher said details were still being worked out, but that fans watching camp will probably have to wear masks; he was unsure if vaccination cards would be needed to enter the Skate Zone.
Fans will not be permitted into the building for rookie camp, which starts Thursday. On Monday, Fletcher cited staffing issues surrounding health and safety checks for not allowing fans in the building for that camp.
As for the main camp, Fletcher said more information about health and safety precautions will be released in the coming days.
The rookie camp will consist of on-ice sessions for the first two days, followed by two rookie games against the New York Rangers later in the week — Saturday at the Blueshirts’ MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, New York, and Sunday in Voorhees.
Former first-round draft picks Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, and Cam York are among the players expected at rookie camp, along with highly regarded prospects like Wade Allison, Tanner Laczynski, and Egor Zamula.
Fletcher noted that front-office members, the coaching staff, and scouts will be watching closely, “so you better be ready to put your best foot forward.”
He also said it’s an opportunity for new Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere and his staff to “get to know this group, and for this group of players to get to know the coaches and start to put in systems. ... and maybe settle their nerves for when main camp starts.”
Notes: Fletcher said there is “better leadership” heading into main camp this season, and added that he didn’t do a good enough job replacing Matt Niskanen, Nate Thompson (who is back with the club), and Tyler Pitlick with “high-character players” after the 2019-20 season. ... Winger Zayde Wisdom, coming off a strong rookie season with the Phantoms (18 points in 28 games), will take part in camp meetings but is expected to be sidelined until December because of August shoulder surgery , per assistant general manager Brent Flahr. ... Laczynski and Elliot Desnoyers, recovering from injuries, hope to get cleared Friday for contact at camp, Flahr said, adding that winger Maksim Sushko, coming off knee surgery, will miss the rookie camp but might be ready for the main camp. ... Fletcher said the Flyers had a “long offseason” because of missing the playoffs and that the team was relatively healthy and had “no excuses” this season. “They’ve had a full (off)season to train and, to my eyes, they look like they’ve taken advantage of that longer window.”