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The NHL and its players’ association announced modifications to COVID-19 protocols for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for fully vaccinated individuals and teams on Saturday.
The modifications include relaxing restrictions regarding mask-wearing, testing, quarantining, team meetings, social gatherings and team traveling parties for players, coaches, management and staff, the NHL said.
The NHL says an individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and a team is considered fully vaccinated when 85% of the individuals in its traveling party are fully vaccinated.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the modifications will allow teams to have more interaction.
“When you look at the COVID protocols to this point, by design, they’re set up to limit the interaction for obvious reasons,” Sullivan said. “And our team has tried hard to stay vigilant and disciplined, to adhere to the protocols the best we can. And the players, once again, I think just deserve so much credit for their discipline and staying with it here. We’re going to continue to stay with it until this team is fully vaccinated. But what I will tell you is that both from our players and coaches, our traveling staff, we will be well over the 85 percent threshold.”
Any individual who chooses not to be vaccinated must continue to abide by the previous COVID-19 protocols, and the modifications also apply to on-ice officials once all members of the officiating team are fully vaccinated.
“I can’t put it into percentages or anything, but it’s been a grind for a lot of the players in the protocols and those things,” New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I think that will be an ease for players, like, ‘Hey, this has been worth it.’ We’ve been grinding, grinding, and now we’re seeing things change a bit. I think it’ll give a boost of energy to all involved.”
Protocol modifications for fully vaccinated individuals include:
- No longer needing to follow quarantine requirements following exposure to the virus.
- No longer requiring a PCR test on off days and no longer needing to undergo a Point of Care (rapid) test on game days unless they did not get a PCR the previous day. But any individual who returns an initial positive test for COVID-19 must enter the positive test protocol regardless of their vaccination status.
- Permitting social gatherings of up to eight fully vaccinated individuals that can include fully vaccinated persons not in the traveling party. Masks and social distancing are no longer required for these gatherings.
- Permitting visits to the hotel rooms of other fully vaccinated individuals.
- Permitting eating and drinking at restaurants that offer outdoor dining either individually or with other fully vaccinated individuals.
- Permitting two or more fully vaccinated individuals to commute unmasked together.
- No longer being subject to time limitations for pregame arena arrival.
Protocol modifications for fully vaccinated teams include:
- Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear masks in non-public areas at practice and game facilities.
- Teams can resume holding team meetings and social gatherings with no requirement for fully vaccinated individuals to socially distance or wear masks, provided they are sufficiently distanced from unvaccinated individuals.
- Fully vaccinated individuals may golf as a group.
- Fully vaccinated individuals will be permitted to eat on flights and busses.
- Fully vaccinated individuals may eat together at team meals outdoors with no limitation on group size and no requirements for masks or social distancing.
- They can also dine together indoors with no limitation on group size (and no requirements for masks or social distancing) if a separate section of the restaurant is secured away from the rest of the restaurants patrons and they are served by masked restaurant employees.
- For postgame and practice meals, teams can provide buffet style meals serve by approved staff in a room reserved for fully vaccinated individuals.
- Team shall provide a separate meal room for unvaccinated individuals.
The COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs can be read here.
The NHL said a start date for the playoffs has not yet been announced.