The NHL has announced that it will make some changes to their COVID-19 testing procedures following the All-Star break, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Seravalli reports that asymptomatic players and staff will no longer be tested for coronavirus, provided that COVID-19 rates around the league continue to decline over the next few weeks. Testing will then only happen following symptoms or for cross-border travel.
Notably, Seravalli adds that 73% of NHL rosters have tested positive this season and approximately 60% in the last five weeks. The NHL already had protocols in place to stop testing players for 90 days after their positive case. The current procedures are in place through February 3, while the NHL and NHLPA will meet before January 31 to review and approve the proposed changes.
In a press release, the league has confirmed the potential changes and listed them as follows:
Testing Protocol: The plan is to continue the current testing Protocol through Feb. 3. Provided positive test results continue to decline within the NHL, and pending review and agreement by Jan. 31 by the NHL’s and NHLPA’s medical experts, the Protocol will be updated as follows:
i. There will be no testing of Fully Vaccinated Players and Staff during the All-Star break (including for participating Players and staff), unless needed for travel or development of symptoms.
ii. There will be a single test upon re-entry to Club facilities post-All-Star, after which there will no longer be asymptomatic testing, or testing of Fully Vaccinated close contacts.
iii. Thereafter, testing will continue only on a limited “for cause” basis in Fully Vaccinated Players and Staff who develop symptoms or require testing for cross-border travel.
iv. The post-COVID “testing holiday” will remain at 90 days, but symptom-based testing can still be done at the team physician’s discretion. Testing for cross-border travel post-COVID will be dictated by the relevant health authority, which is currently 90 days for entry to the U.S. and 180 days for entry to Canada.
Taxi squads, which were introduced in late December as teams were struggling to ice full rosters, are scheduled to disappear again after each team’s final game before the All-Star break. Whether they are maintained past that is still unclear at this point. Friedman reports that a revised schedule for the February Olympic break is expected as early as tomorrow. More than 100 games have been postponed so far.