Shortage unknown to players

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Jarome Iginla is a father and a Flame.

So, the Calgary captain understands why some fans are outraged he and his teammates skipped the line last Friday and received H1N1 flu shots -- just one day before the province closed public clinics, blaming a shortage of the vaccine.

"Today, we can see you open the papers and they're stopping and it's a shortage. So yeah, we can understand why people may be upset," Iginla told a throng of reporters yesterday at the Saddledome.

"With the shortage (and) with the stoppage of clinics, today, if that was the case, I don't believe we would be getting that shot.

"We were, as players, following what we believed was the NHL protocol. It was available and, at the time, the clinics were still open."

While some Calgarians waited for hours and hours to receive the vaccine at five public sites last week, the Flames jumped the queue and got their shots at an undisclosed location last Friday.

After yesterday's morning practice, Flames blueliner Robyn Regehr defended the process, saying the players had no clue the vaccine was in short supply.

"When Alberta Health was contacted by our team physicians, they said that they had enough to do our team at that point," he said.

"I'm not sure what was talked about at that point, but they told us if we wanted to get it on Friday, that we had the option.

"For me, I was pretty happy. You're hearing all kinds of things like having to go across the border, you might need it. At that point, we had the option, so I took it."

The NHL has already seen several confirmed cases of H1N1 flu. Colorado Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj, Edmonton Oilers rearguard Ladislav Smid and Washington Capitals winger Quintin Laing have each waged bouts with the illness, while Doug Weight of the New York Islanders and Kristian Huselius of the Columbus Blue Jackets have also had suspected cases of the H1N1 virus.

Iginla, his wife and three children each received the vaccine last week.

A Flames spokesperson said yesterday "most" of the players took advantage of the opportunity, although some made a "personal decision" not to.

Iginla pointed out, Calgary's hockey heroes are exposed to scores of fans on a regular basis.

The 32-year-old captain, though, stopped short of suggesting professional athletes rank as high-risk to be infected with H1N1.

"I don't know enough about the issues to tell you who the highest risk is and all that -- I don't know," Iginla said.

"But I do know that we come into contact with a lot of kids, a lot of people, (sign) autographs, and things definitely spread very quickly amongst us.

"We come into contact with a ton of kids, and that's on a daily basis. Guys go to hospitals and visits and schools and everything. But still, I'm not trying to tell you that justifies it, because I don't know enough about what qualifies (as high-risk)."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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