Finland’s Mikael Hakkarainen, the forward acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights from the Chicago Blackhawks and traded for Marc-Andre Fleury, was forced to retire from professional hockey at the age of 24 due to sudden congenital heart disease.
In an interview with a Finnish news outlet Jatkoaika, Hakkarainen blames his heart problem after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year.
“I got Covid at the end of January. I got severe symptoms and went to play too early. Since April I have been doing nothing and observing what the situation is. Now it has become known that I have congenital heart disease LVNC, or trabeculation cardiomyopathy,” Hakkarainen told the Jatkoaika outlet.
“It means that I have a higher risk of having a heart attack on the ice – especially when there are contact situations. It would have been hard to play and I would have gotten a place, but you can’t play with your health,” he added.
The healthy young player revealed that he had no history of heart problems.
“I would like to do something with ice hockey, but I can’t say anything for sure yet. You just had to accept that you can’t play hockey anymore. And that’s fine,” he said.
It can be recalled that the NHL announced stricter COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season last year, that include severe penalties for unvaccinated players, such as suspensions and loss of pay if those players tested positive, according to Bleacher Nation.
This protocol also includes officials and all personnel that come into contact with the players.
According to its website posted last year, “The NHL is down to four players who have not received the vaccination for COVID-19, Commissioner Gary Bettman said prior to the season-opening game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena”
“Our vaccination rate is incredible,” Commissioner Bettman said. “Four players, not four percent of players. All of our officials are vaccinated. All of the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.”
Hakkarainen’s retirement comes after the news of a hockey player in Canada who died suddenly during a tournament.
“Ayr Centennials of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) announced that Eli Palfreyman, who had just been named captain, had passed away during a pre-season event on Tuesday night. He was 20.”
Reports said Palfreyman collapsed in the dressing room during the first intermission.
The police were called promptly to the site due to a medical emergency; but, despite their best efforts, they were unable to revive him.
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