The NHL and the NHL Players Association announced on Tuesday the release of the COVID-19 Protocol for the 2022-23 season. This season’s protocol closely resembles the protocols utilized to close-out the 2021-22 season.
Local government and health regulations will once again dictate in most situations. According to the protocol:
“Players and all Club personnel are required to continue to comply with all applicable regulations imposed by local, provincial/state, and federal health authorities. Players and Club personnel are also strongly encouraged to adhere to any recommended best practices of the CDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada (“PHAC”), and/or Health Canada applicable to them and the facilit(ies) in which 2022-23 Season activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may come into effect after the commencement of the 2022-23 Season.”
Testing And Isolation
Testing will once again be required for all individuals who are symptomatic or crossing a border. If a player should test positive, the player must isolate for five days if asymptomatic, or up to ten days if experiencing symptoms. From the protocol:
All Players and all Club personnel are strongly encouraged to receive and remain up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination and booster recommendations from the CDC and Health Canada. Vaccination was essential in mitigating COVID-19 risks in earlier phases of the pandemic and still remains the most effective measure to protect against severe illness from COVID-19 infection.
An individual’s status as Fully Vaccinated or as an Unvaccinated Individual will be determined in accordance with the definition applicable in the jurisdiction where the Club conducts its Club activities (e.g., FDA, Health Canada). Upon request of the Club and to the extent permissible under state or provincial laws, Players and Club Personnel who have not previously done so (including for the 2021-22 season) shall provide the Club with vaccination cards or other documentation verifying their vaccinated status. Individuals who fail to provide such information shall be considered Unvaccinated Individuals for the purposes of this Protocol, and shall be subject to the provisions applicable thereto as set forth in this Protocol.
Symptomatic individuals can exit isolation and return to the team as early as day six, if their symptoms are subsiding and they have tested negative through the use of one of the league’s approved methods.
Once again, unvaccinated players will be unable to cross the border to play, meaning the team is allowed to suspend them without pay for any days missed.
Currently, the Canadian-U.S. border continues to have travel quarantine restrictions in place that are related to a person’s vaccination status. Given this, and absent receipt of an exemption from the relevant U.S. or Canadian health authorities, unvaccinated Individuals (as defined by CDC and/or Health Canada) may not be allowed to travel across the Canadian-U.S. border or may be required to quarantine, which would obviously limit their ability to participate in Club activities (e.g., playing in Games, Club travel, and training activities) (hereafter “Club Activities”). As of the effective date of this document, neither Canada nor the U.S. requires a negative COVID-19 test (rapid antigen or molecular) prior to entry. As a reminder, individuals who are COVID- 19 positive remain subject to the isolation restrictions set forth below as well as those imposed by local health authorities.
However, if an unvaccinated or vaccinated player contracts COVID, it will be deemed a hockey-related injury and they will not forfeit any salary or other compensation.
The NHL and NHLPA’s full 16-page document covering the entire protocol can be accessed here.
By Jon Sorensen