Faced with an upsurge in positive COVID-19 cases among circuit teams over the past two weeks and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, leaders of the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association have agreed to institute, immediately, measures amplified to the protocols already in place.
A four-page memo sent Saturday morning to the Board of Governors, to the teams and to the players specifies that these amplified measures aim to achieve two essential objectives: the prevention of the contraction or transmission of the infection by COVID-19; early detection of any positive case to prevent further transmission.
The measures will remain in place during the holiday season and around the turn of the New Year. They will be reassessed by medical experts from the NHL and the Players’ Association on January 7, 2022.
These measures include wearing a mask at all times inside the team’s facilities and when traveling, including on buses, planes and at the hotel, except during training sessions and participation in a match. or by eating and drinking, and daily testing, except on days off.
Additional pre-game testing could be put in place on a case-by-case basis if an outbreak occurs within a team.
Social distancing should be respected during meals – with at least one empty chair between two people – whether the team is in its local market or abroad.
Abroad, players and people accompanying the team may not eat or drink in indoor restaurants, bars or other such places that are open to the general public, except in a private room or in an area demarcated by a safety cordon.
The NHL and the Players’ Association strongly recommend that players wear the N95, KN95 or surgical mask and not a cloth mask.
Shortly after the announcement, the Detroit Red Wings signed the names of head coach Jeff Blashill, assistant Alex Tanguay and three players into the protocols.
The Red Wings, who have the only unvaccinated player in the league – Tyler Bertuzzi – are due to host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
On Friday, the NHL announced that the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames will not play until the return of the Christmas break due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Four games on Saturday’s schedule have been postponed, including that between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center. So far, 20 games have been postponed to later dates.
The Canadian also canceled the training session scheduled for Saturday morning, as a preventive measure. Thursday night, the Habs faced the Philadelphia Flyers in front of completely deserted bleachers at the Bell Center.
In one of six games scheduled for Saturday night in Vancouver, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canucks are expected to be deprived of four and five players respectively.
While postponed matches may be rescheduled, all eyes are now on the league schedule.
The NHL plans to allow players to participate in the Beijing Olympics in February, unless the disruption related to COVID-19 becomes too severe.
The NHL has until January 10 to withdraw from the Games without incurring a financial penalty. However, she retains the right to cancel her plans until the moment the players have to fly to Beijing.
With the Associated Press