H1N1 prompts tough decisions from Toronto teams

With the H1N1 flu epidemic sweeping across the country and through dressing rooms, each Toronto sports franchise has had to make tough decisions on how to handle the situation.

The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly followed in the footsteps of the Calgary Flames and jumped the queue to have some of their players and staff inoculated ahead of those who are high-risk patients.

The same goes for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, also owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

“While all professional athletes are considered high risk to exposure and transmission of the flu due to excessive contact with other players, heavy travel requirements and public exposure, only certain players and staff have received the H1N1 vaccine,” MLSE said in a statement released to the media.

Currently in Ontario, the H1N1 vaccine is only available to priority groups, people who would be at risk of developing complications from the virus. This includes young children, pregnant women and people with past health issues.

MLSE claims that no one from the Leafs or the Raptors received the vaccine through jumping any queue.

“Similar to other physician offices, any vaccine supplies received were obtained through normal distribution and no preferential treatment was requested nor received,” MLSE said in their statement.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews was angered by news that members of both organizations had received the H1N1 shot, despite the shortage of it.

“I want you to know that this is entirely, entirely unacceptable,” Matthews said Thursday. “We are relying on our professionals to respect the priority list.”

MLSE has yet to reveal which players were given the vaccine, saying that the information is “considered private and confidential.”

According to team officials, some players and staff received the shots following the Leafs game Tuesday night versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The MLSE move to inoculate their players and staff came on the heels of Toronto Marlies forward Tyler Bozak contracting the flu, suspected to be H1N1, and missing two games recently while in quarantine.

“From the severity of the flu, our doctors thought it was H1N1,” Bozak told reporters after practice Wednesday. “I never got tested. I just stayed at home. I didn’t want to get guys sick. I didn’t want to be around the guys.”

Marlies winger Andre Deveaux also came down with the flu recently and with Jiri Tlusty’s promotion to the Leafs, there was concern that the virus that had been discovered in the AHL team’s room, would come with him.

While MLSE-operated teams are under suspicion of being vaccinated, the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, on the other hand, along with all other teams in the league, have not jumped the queue according a recent survey conducted by the CFL over the last week, the CBC reports.

According to Matt Maychak, the CFL’s vice-president of communications, no one from the league has jumped the line. That was confirmed by each team’s president during the weekly conference call Wednesday.