Flames feeling public's wrath

The Calgary Flames President and CEO, Ken King, speaks on why the team were able to avoid long line...

The Calgary Flames President and CEO, Ken King, speaks on why the team were able to avoid long line ups at flu clinics. (Darren Makowichuk/SUN MEDIA)

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 PM ET

Contrary to the NHLís official stats, it turns out Jarome Iginla did get a shot over the weekend.

An H1N1 flu shot.

And because of it the Flames captain and the bulk of his teammates are now feeling the wrath of someone even angrier than coach Brent Sutter: Joe Public.

One day after the most intense, hard-hitting practice the Dome has seen in years, players and team officials faced a similar onslaught as newsies demanded answers as to how the bulk of the Flames jumped ahead of the lengthy inoculation lineups Calgarians were subject to last week.

Itís a fair question given the panic, fear, misinformation, disorganization and death stemming from the pandemic.

However, the reality is no one with the Flames organization is to blame.

While it was undoubtedly a poor public-relations move based on the optics of it all, it wasnít a bad decision.

After all, by securing the vaccines the club managed to best protect its most important assets.

The difference being that while tens of thousands of Albertans lined up in the cold last Friday for up to eight hours, the club approached provincial health officials with questions on how their players could get inoculated without the rigours of lining up.

Keep in mind, the Flames rarely line up for any other medical procedures like the rest of us do.

Given the spotlight on these controversial clinics, the person with Alberta Health Services who gave the go-ahead is the one who should, and will, be thrown under the bus for this one.

Understandably, the collateral damage comes at the expense of an organization taking a rare hit to an otherwise stellar record of community-mindedness.

Surely if there was a back-or policy, the Flames should have been preceded by a long list of folks including police officers, firemen, teachers, pregnant women and children.

However, whatís critically important to remember in all this is that the players were inoculated Friday Ė a time when Premier Ed Stelmach urged everyone to get the shot and there was no talk of a vaccination shortage.

Itís not like Iginla took the vaccination that would otherwise have gone to a pregnant women, as frustrated critics charge.

It would be a radically different story if the Flames were vaccinated yesterday while clinics were closed.

While folks hate seeing athletes skip lines at restaurants, nightclubs or anywhere else they go, itís far tougher to swallow when those in line are cold, angry, confused and concerned over the well-being of their families.

At that point, people see red and offer no Mulligans for an organization that does more for community spirit and fundraising than any other.

Still, the players were following a directive from the league and their teamís medical personnel, and canít be blamed for following orders AND being responsible.

If you were offered it, you would have taken it too.

Right now none of us have that option and thatís what bothers people the most.

The frustration, quite frankly, is misguided.

Subjected to extensive travel and close contact with others the players are certainly in a risk group, although at this point we all are.

The Flames have a heightened sensitivity of the perils of H1N1 as someone close to the organization recently died of it despite being in their early 40ís and in good health prior to contracting the virus.

Flames president Ken King took full responsibility for the decision and understands how sensitive, controversial and personal the issue is.

ďWe were under the clear and total understanding we were not taxing the system, otherwise we wouldnít do this,Ē said King.

ďIím going to defend the decision on the basis it was the best information available at the time. That suggested it was acceptable to get some vaccine.Ē

It was, but that wasnít a decision health services officials shouldíve back-doored.

And because of it, the Flames reputation takes a rare hit.


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