Just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL is set to take a major change to their COVID-19 protocol. As first reported by TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the league has issued a memo to potential playoff clubs detailing new rules relaxing the restrictions initially implemented to combat the Coronavirus. Once 85% of the team, including players, coaches, and staff, have been fully vaccinated, there will be much more freedom granted in health and safety and social interaction areas. This policy will also apply to on-ice officials, once 100% of the crew has been fully vaccinated. By “fully vaccinated”, the league requires that an individual be two weeks removed from their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Once a team receives league approval that the 85% vaccination mark has been reached, the following policies will be relaxed:
- allowed in groups of up to eight people
- not limited to members of the team
- may occur indoors or outdoors
- masks and social distancing not required
- all individuals must be fully vaccinated
- not required in non-public areas of arenas and practice facilities
- not required at teams meetings
Travel and Leisure
- permitted to gather in hotel rooms
- permitted to eat during air and bus travel
- permitted to dine at restaurants with outdoors seating or an exclusive indoor dining area
- permitted to golf as a group
- no longer required on off days
These new policies will be well-received by players, coaches, and officials alike, who have endured a very sheltered existence over the past few months. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to reap the benefits. Seravalli notes that none of the Canadian clubs are “anywhere close” to the 85% full vaccination mark and may not get there at all by the end of the postseason. Slow vaccination rates in Canada mean that few Canadian players have received their first dose of a two-dose COVID vaccine and second doses could be months away. With it still being unclear if the North Division champion will even be able to play home games in the final two rounds of the playoffs, these relaxed policies could join home ice as another benefit for the American clubs this postseason.