The NHL has usually been very public about their protocols throughout the COVID pandemic, whether it was changing up the structure of the arena to make it more safe and ventilated, or upfront about how their testing system is administered and the timeline of results, they’ve been adequate at informing us what they’re doing through all of this.
So on Friday evening, the league sent a memo to the teams and media members that they are going to require full vaccinations for team staff and other people that are around the players and hockey operations people (within 12 feet).
There are some limited exceptions -- such as valet parking attendants. NHL/NHLPA protocols for players are not yet completed. (2/2)— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) August 13, 2021
As Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet mentions, there is going to be some expectations, giving the example of a valet parking attendant that would be interacting with the player for a very brief period of time. Friedman also mentions that the mandate for the players are going to be completed in the future, most likely needing to go through the NHLPA first and getting approval from them.
When it comes to the wording, does having “access” mean the families of the players? I am sure that question will be answered later on in the year, but it’s going to be an interesting balance.
The league had strict rules—more strict than the other major North American professional sports—last season, but similar to other leagues, their protocols were loosened once the team was able to confirm that 85 percent of its staff has been fully vaccinated. Once they hit that number, players were able to go out to restaurants to eat outdoors, gather socially outside of the team’s buildings, and go to one another’s hotel rooms on the road.
Now with this mandate of every member being fully vaccinated, and some sort of ruling on vaccines for the players coming before the season, it will only instill some more safety into the NHL attempting a more regularly structured season in 2021-22. Last season, the league rearranged the then 31 teams into four geographically-influenced divisions and the teams were only allowed to play within said divisions during the regular season—only crossing over when the final four teams were decided in the playoffs.
This season there will be full travel, a regular season structure of interdivisional games, and actual fans in the arena. A stark look compared to what went on during the 56-game 2020-21, but a welcomed return to some competitive normalcy.
We’ll see how that works out and whether or not there is going to be any mandate for player vaccinations in the coming months.