NHL Releases COVID Protocols, Includes Mechanism For Suspending Unvaccinated Players

The NHL and NHLPA have finalized COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season. The final protocols were sent to each team Thursday afternoon.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the biggest element of the protocols is a mechanism for teams to suspend unvaccinated players who are “unable to participate in club activities.” This includes situations where a player cannot travel because of local, provincial/state and/or federal regulations “upon return.” Such individuals would “forfeit the equivalent of one day’s pay for each day” they are precluded from participating.

If a fully vaccinated player is confirmed with a positive COVID test, his condition “shall be treated as a hockey-related injury for all purposes” under the CBA.

According to Friedman, there are exceptions — unvaccinated status based upon medical reasons; a conflict with “sincerely held religious beliefs;” establishment “on the basis of a balance of the probabilities,” COVID-19 “arised out of the course of employment as a hockey player;” or quarantine because of being a high-risk close contact.

Other notable points of emphasis in the protocols via Sportsnet:

• Any player who wishes to opt-out of the 2021-22 season because they are unvaccinated or fully vaccinated “but can establish that an immediate family member with whom he shares a household is at substantially heightened risk of severe illness by contracting COVID-19” can opt-out by Oct. 1. The team in question will then have 30 days to decide if the player’s contract will be “tolled” (basically rolling it over to 2022-23) or if this season would be removed from the agreement. Anyone opting out would not be able to play in another league or the Olympics.

• Any person whose job, role, position or access entails or entitles them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) of club hockey operations personnel (including players) must be fully vaccinated.

• Fully vaccinated players shall be subject to PCR testing at least every 72 hours. That guideline could change depending on how things progress. Unvaccinated players will be tested daily.

• There are stiff rules for unvaccinated players. On the road, they cannot enter “internal venues” other than the team hotel, practice facility, or game arena. They are not allowed to use the hotel gym, pool, sauna, steam room or other shared facilities. They are not allowed to have teammates, team staff or visitors inside their hotel room, with the exception of fully-vaccinated family. They are not allowed to leave the hotel to eat (or purchase food) or use any restaurants/bars (in or out of the hotel) that are open to the public. They can’t pick up food except where the restaurant provides curbside pickup (or similar service) that does not require entrance to the main restaurant.

This will be the second consecutive season in which COVID protocols will be enacted to govern the entire NHL season. It’s estimated that 95% of NHL players are fully vaccinated. As of August 14, that number was around 85%.

More to come.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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