The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold for vaccination, just in time for the playoffs. (AP/David Zalubowski)

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold for vaccination, just in time for the playoffs. (AP/David Zalubowski)

NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The new protocols take hold once 85% or more of the travelling party has been fully vaccinated

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold for vaccination, just in time for the playoffs.

The changes are outlined in a memo viewed by The Associated Press that the league sent to teams and players Friday night. The new protocols take hold once 85% or more of the travelling party has been fully vaccinated. For a team with 56 members in its travelling party, 48 would need to be fully vaccinated.

“It could be really big, I think, just for the mindset of the players, more than anything, just to get back to some sort of normalcy,” Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Saturday. “The playoffs are a grind, just like this season has been, so any type of getting your mind away from it by being around the guys I think will help.”

The changes include loosened restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining, testing frequency and mask-wearing and quarantine requirements.

According to the memo, fully vaccinated individuals can dine outdoors or inside (in a private section or room with masked servers), visit each other’s hotel rooms, go golfing and have other social gatherings without masking or distancing requirements. They also won’t have to quarantine for potential exposure or be subject to testing on off days, and in some cases rapid tests prior to games.

“The only thing we’ve missed is those team bonding (meals), going out to dinner and kind of going to those small-group type things where you really get to know a teammate that way,” veteran Washington Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson said Saturday. “As far as meals at the hotels and whatnot, we still can kind of get together for the most part and it feels for the most part as normal as can be considering the circumstances.”

The league had maintained strict COVID-19 rules since the start of the season and added more protections in February when cases were increasing. Team staff and family were instructed Feb. 11 to avoid public settings and even get groceries delivered, restrictions that have been in place since.

“We’ve been in total isolation,” Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner said last month. “We can’t get out of our house. We can’t go out of our hotel. We can’t do anything. And it’s been over a year now, and no one ever talks about the mental health impact about that stuff.”

The NHL is the last of the major four North American pro sports leagues to announce plans to relax virus protocols for teams based on vaccination levels. As of Friday, five of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams had reach the 85% vaccinated level to relax protocols.

This move is likely to affect the 12 U.S. playoff teams first because vaccinations have lagged for those in Canada. As of Friday, roughly a third of those in the U.S. are fully vaccinated compared with just more than 3% in Canada.

“It all comes down to the government guidelines, and it’s out of our control,” U.S.-born Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said earlier this season. “You definitely see the States getting out the vaccinations well and it’s very good, very nice, and it’d be nice to see that in Canada, but I don’t know the logistics of it all.”

Along with players, coaches and other staff, fully vaccinated officiating crews also can also take advantage of the relaxed protocols if both teams of the playoff series they are working are also considered fully vaccinated.

“It’ll be great,” Hurricanes defenceman Brady Skjei said. “It’ll be nice for us to be able to go out for lunch or dinner and sit out on a patio. We haven’t been able to do that for a while. Just to get that team bonding, that part of it. We’ve obviously been together the whole year and been in the hotel rooms together. But, yeah, it’ll be awesome to get outside and get some fresh air.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNHL

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Men in a work camp at Mile 46 on the Big Bend Highway. 
(Revelstoke Museum and Archives Photo 2259)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for June 17

Bumper strawberry crop, Mt. Logan climbers and unemployment relief

(File)
‘It’s not going to work here’: Revelstoke mayor to meet province over ambulance changes

There is a new system being introduced across the province called Scheduled On-Call (SOC)

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The crosswalk is at Third Street and Mackenzie and was installed on June 17. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Painting a rainbow: First Pride crosswalk installed in Revelstoke

‘It signals to the community that this city is inclusive,’ Mayor Gary Sulz

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read