Columbus Blue Jackets' Assistant Coach Replaced After Refusing to Get Vaccinated

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced on Monday that they have replaced their assistant coach after he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a statement, the team said, "Cleveland Monsters Associate Coach and former National Hockey League defenseman Steve McCarthy has replaced Sylvain Lefebvre as an assistant coach on Head Coach Brad Larsen's staff."

The statement noted that "Lefebvre has decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and thus will not be able to perform the duties required of him given current NHL protocols."

Blue Jackets' General Manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen said in the statement that "While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well."

Kekalainen continued, "We feel fortunate to have an outstanding coach join our club in Steve McCarthy, who has played in this league, won championships as a player and been an important member of our hockey operations department as an assistant coach in Cleveland."

Lefebvre's replacement, McCarthy spent the last five seasons serving as the assistant coach to the Monsters, which is the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate. McCarthy also played in the NHL for 16 years with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Thrashers.

Blue Jackets' head coach said that McCarthy "is a really bright, young coach with a great work ethic and I'm excited about what he will bring to our staff."

The Columbus Blue Jackets directed Newsweek to their statement after reaching out for comment.

Under the NHL's COVID-19 rules for the 2021-2022 season, all coaches and team staff that closely interact with players are required to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

NHL players are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and if they chose not to they will face strict restrictions, such as being prohibited from having teammates or visitors in their hotel rooms and losing a day's pay if they miss a game or practice due to a positive COVID-19 test.

However, ESPN previously reported that "an overwhelming majority" of NHL players are considered fully vaccinated against the novel virus.

In addition to Lefebvre, the San Jose Sharks faced a similar incident when associate coach Rocky Thompson announced that he was stepping down from his position as he could not receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical exemption.

"Under the new League protocols, I am not permitted to fulfill my duties on the Sharks coaching staff at this time," Thompson said in a statement, according to ESPN. "I will have no further comment on this matter."

Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced on Monday that they will be replacing their assistant coach after he declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Above, a detail of the logo of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the game against the Buffalo Sabres on October 7, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Kirk Irwin/Getty