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Blue Jackets assistant out after declining COVID-19 vaccine

Sylvain Lefebvre

LAVAL, QC - OCTOBER 13: Head coach of the Laval Rocket Sylvain Lefebvre looks on from behind the bench against the Binghamton Devils during the AHL game at Place Bell on October 13, 2017 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Binghamton Devils 8-7 in overtime. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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The Blue Jackets have dropped Sylvain Lefebvre as an assistant coach after deciding to not get the COVID-19 vaccine, the team announced.

“We had to part ways with him because he couldn’t do his job. We need a coach,” General manager Jarmo Kekalainen told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline.

Last month, the NHL sent a memo to its teams stating: “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, are required to be fully vaccinated.”

Players have not been mandated to get vaccinated, as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, the league did announce stricter penalties for unvaccinated players as part of this season’s COVID-19 protocols.

Teams will have the ability to suspend unvaccinated players if they are “unable to participate in club activities.” Players would forfeit pay for each day they miss, which could include being unable to travel because of local or federation regulations. Medical reasons, “sincerely held religious beliefs,” contracting the virus “out of the course of employment as a hockey player,” and being deemed a high-risk close contact are exceptions.

Lefebvre is the second NHL assistant to be replaced due to the new protocols this off-season. Rocky Thompson was replaced by John MacLean on the Sharks’ bench because Thompson has a medical exemption that prevents him from getting vaccinated.

AHL Cleveland assistant coach Steve McCarthy will replace Lefebvre, who was hired in June, on Brad Larsen’s staff.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.