Blue Jackets part ways with assistant Sylvain Lefebvre over COVID-19 vaccination refusal

The first day of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ development camp included a significant development with the coaching staff. 

The team announced Monday that recently-hired assistant Sylvain Lefebvre opted not to get a COVID-19 vaccine and will not be able to coach this season because of it. Lefebvre’s position will be filled by Cleveland Monsters assistant Steve McCarthy.

“It’s just impossible to do your job because of the NHL (vaccination) protocol, so we needed a new coach,” said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who was surprised to learn of Lefebvre’s decision. “We had to move on.” 

The NHL’s protocols require players, coaches and staff to be vaccinated in order to participate. Kekalainen said the regulations are most stringent on those with direct access to players.

“You can’t go anywhere near the players, 12 feet, if you’re not vaccinated,” he said. “You can’t travel on the (team charter) plane, you can’t be in the locker room, you can’t be in the coaches’ office.” 

Sylvain Lefebvre has coached as an assistant with the San Diego Gulls the past three years.

Kekalainen declined to reveal whether Lefebvre cited any specific reason for not getting immunized with one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. Prior to speaking with the Dispatch, the GM issued a statement about the situation that read:

“While we are disappointed, we respect that this decision is a personal one for Sylvain and wish him well. 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.” 

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