Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill opened training camp by making a few announcements. The biggest question, of course, being the vaccination status of the team. As teams have opened training camps across the league the last few days, each general manager has addressed where their team stands. For Dallas, the status was fully vaccinated among NHL players and all staff, and only one unvaccinated individual in the organization as of now: Joel L’Esperance.
“My wife and I just thought that, where we are as a family right now, we weren’t quite comfortable with getting the vaccine at this point,” Joel L’Esperance said. “Not anti-vax. It’s just something that as a family we decided that we’re a little uncomfortable with the some of the potential things that could happen with the vaccine at this point. And that’s our decision.”
L’Esperance has been a depth piece for Dallas, spending last season on the NHL team’s taxi squad and appearing in 12 games as the team dealt with a myriad of injuries. He made this choice realizing that the potential impact on his career could be severe – unvaccinated players that are called up from the AHL could require
“Probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life. It’s my dream to play in the NHL. Obviously, there’s consequences to me not getting the vaccine and it’s going to effect my career. But right now, my family is more important than my career.” When asked if that has to do with fertility implications, L’Esperance said, “There’s personal things that are definitely things that my wife and I are taking into consideration.”
The impact of the COVID-19 vaccinations approved for use in the U.S. have not been scientifically proven to this point. Dr. Albert Hsu, a reproductive endocrinologist at MU Health Care, said that, “While studies are ongoing, there is no data that the COVID-19 vaccines may cause infertility and no credible scientific theories for how the COVID-19 vaccine may cause female infertility,” Hsu said. “Statements linking COVID-19 vaccines to female infertility are currently speculative at best.”
Regardless of the personally-held reasons for not getting vaccinated, Nill said the Stars organization supports L’Esperance’s decision not to get the shots and are committed to working with him through the various protocols he will have to adhere to in order to participate in hockey this season.