'It’s a life choice, a personal choice': Wings' Bertuzzi on not getting COVID-19 vaccine
Traverse City — Tyler Bertuzzi said he made a personal choice not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Bertuzzi had a brief Zoom interview with media after Thursday’s training camp practice.
“It went fine, it was good,” Bertuzzi said of his chat with general manager Steve Yzerman about his decision not to get vaccinated. ”It’s a life choice, a personal choice.”
Bertuzzi said he’s talked with teammates about his decision.
“Everything is good, same as normal,” Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi, 26, didn’t think twice about his decision to not get vaccinated. He said he talked it over with family, including the family of his fiancee Ashley Greasley (the couple is expecting their first child).
“It was pretty set in stone,” Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi could miss as many as nine games when the Wings play in Canada — the Wings' first road game is Oct. 23 in Montreal — where he won't be allowed to enter the country. He is forfeiting his salary for those games.
Bertuzzi signed a two-year contract worth $9.5 million ($4.75 million per season) in July. Bertuzzi could lose approximately $400,000 if he misses those nine games.
“It’s a personal choice, freedom of choice and life choice,” Bertuzzi said.
Bertuzzi is coming off back surgery, which ended his season one month into the schedule.
“I was real happy with my progress my recovery and I stayed in Detroit all summer and skated and I feel real good,” Bertuzzi said. “Usually training camp is a grind, but I’m excited to be back and skating with the guys and getting ready to play a season and try to play as many games as I can.
"I feel good. I'm cleared through camp (to play). I can get bumped and hit and bringing it into the season feels good."
Dylan Larkin, the Wings’ captain and a close of friend of Bertuzzi, backed Bertuzzi’s decision.
“It’s his choice,” Larkin said. “Tyler has looked into it and weighed all his options. At the end of the day it was his choice to not get it.
“Tyler is very popular in our (locker) room, a very big part of our locker room, and we’re going to miss him on the ice and locker room when he isn’t able to play. But he has our support.”
Larkin said the Wings would deal with not having Bertuzzi available similarly to not having a player due to injury.
“We’re going to miss him when he’s not there,” Larkin said. “Like an injury or anything you have to find ways (as a team). You can’t think about it too much, you have to move on and be ready to play.
“We deal with it a lot in our business and we’ll treat it the same way.”
Larkin, who said he's been vaccinated, has spoken to Bertuzzi about the issue.
“Being a close friend with him, we’ve had conversations and he’s explained it to me,” Larkin said. “We’ve talked a lot about it. Tyler has thought a lot about it. I know there’s a lot of support in making his own decision, but there is also a part that everyone knows we’re going to miss him when he can’t play.”
Bertuzzi had five goals and two assists in nine games last season, before the back injury. He had consecutive 21-goal seasons the two previous seasons.
Coach Jeff Blashill, talking with the media after the Wings' first practice, also supported Bertuzzi.
"Tyler is a player I love as a person, love as a player," Blashill said. "I’m a big fan of Tyler. He’s a great teammate. The NHL allowed our players to make decisions on this, and that’s the decision Tyler made and we respect it.
"Obviously we’d love to have everybody vaccinated because then you don’t lose anybody. But I certainly respect the decision."
Not having Bertuzzi for the games in Canada will be straightforward for Blashill.
"How will I handle it? Other guys will get opportunity when he cannot play," Blashill said. "There’s not a whole lot more to the story than that. That's really the gist of it."