Oilers' defenceman Duncan Keith says he felt pressure from NHLPA to get COVID-19 vaccine

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Duncan Keith told reporters on Friday he wished the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) had shown more support for players who wanted to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The 38-year-old defenceman made the remarks after skating at Rogers Place for the first time as an Edmonton Oilers player. 

Keith missed the start of training camp because he took extra time with his decision to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

The veteran hockey player said he struggled with his decision because he spent years taking care of his body and building up his immune system. 

"To have to basically take the vaccine to play hockey, for me was frustrating in a lot of ways," Keith told reporters on Friday. "But at the same time, I'm excited to be here.

"You definitely don't expect a year where you’re in a position where you have to make a medical decision just to play hockey," said Keith. "I feel like that decision, it should be a choice." 

Keith said over the summer the NHLPA pressured him to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"It would have been nice to have a little more pushback from the (NHLPA), to support the guys that felt strong in their belief that, you know for different reasons, on whether to get it or not," he said. "There was pressure from the Players' Association to get it."

"I don't want to make it about this vaccine," Keith added. "I'm here, I'm ready to play, I'm excited to get going now."

The veteran defenceman said sitting out was not ideal, but he did what he could to stay in shape.

"Working hard in the gym and riding the bike, doing all the things that I would normally do in the offseason for training."

The Oilers traded for Keith with Chicago on July 12 for defenceman Caleb Jones and a third-round draft pick.

Keith is expected to join the rest of his new team sometime next week.