Few groups have their well-being looked after in Canada more than NHL players, but even hockey fanatics have their limits. A wave of outrage swept over the Great White North last week following reports that members of the Flames and the Maple Leafs were given the H1N1 flu vaccine, even as a shortage hampered efforts to immunize high-risk target groups (such as children and pregnant women) in the general population. Two Alberta Health Services employees who helped Calgary players get shots were fired. And Ontario health minister Deb Matthews said she will investigate how the vaccine was made available to Toronto. "I don't care who you are, how rich you are, how famous you are," she said. "If you're not in the priority group, get out of the line."
The Leafs released a statement suggesting that travel and proximity to one another make NHL players a high-risk group. They might be right. The NHL has been hit harder by the virus than other leagues; there have been at least five confirmed cases since the season started, including the Bruins' David Krejci last week. "You have such close physical contact with guys," said teammate Blake Wheeler. "You've got to take all the necessary steps ... stuff that your mom taught you when you were little."
Caution is the buzzword throughout the sports world. On Sunday the Nets' Chris Douglas-Roberts, the NBA's first known H1N1 case, was quarantined. Last Saturday the Spanish pro basketball league called off a game after four players came down with the swine flu, and earlier this fall the Swedish Soccer Association told players not to shake hands. USA Hockey issued a similar directive for youth players. "I stayed in bed and shut my door," Islanders center Doug Weight said when he returned after missing three games with H1N1. "So if anybody gets sick now, it's not [from] me."