NHL: Daily COVID-19 testing is back as the league hopes to avoid a shutdown

The NHL is bringing back daily testing for COVID-19 as the league grapples with the spread of the virus.

Testing is just one part of tougher COVID-19 protocols the league announced Saturday. The protocols begin immediately and will run through the new year, with their effectiveness to be evaluated no later than Jan. 7.

NHL trying to avoid a shutdown

In addition, masks must be worn at all times by players and members of the team’s traveling party in club facilities and while on the road, and personnel must maintain physical distance while eating. Other rules include prohibiting team personnel from eating or drinking in indoor restaurants or bars open to the public.

In its memo sent to teams announcing the policy change, the NHL said “changing societal realities with the new Omicron COVID-19 variant” were the impetus. The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers are on pause through next week because of outbreaks.

ESPN estimated the number of players in the league’s COVID-19 protocol at 70, or about 10 percent of all players.

The enhanced measures were agreed to between the league and the players association and apply to all team members, no matter what their vaccination status.

NHL pause on the horizon?

NHL COVID shutdown
Apr 10, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; A view of the NHL logo on an official game puck as it rolls across the ice during a stop in play in the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Currently five teams in the NHL are shutdown. The Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, and Florida Panthers are all postponed until after the Christmas Break.

Over 150 NHL players have been on the protocol list so far this season, and the list has been growing rapidly in recent days.

In Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa they’ve reduced capacity to 50% for games. The Predators have been hit hard recently with cases, prompting forward Nick Cousins to tweet:

Pause the season until after Christmas ? This is ridiculous

While the NHL has put into place enhanced protocols and taking things on a team by team basis, it appears the inevitable is coming. A pause on the season is likely on the horizon although the league is doing its best to avoid outcome.

If a pause were to occur, it will by default end the NHL and NHLPA’s participation in the upcoming Olympics.

The other question that will need to be answered is just how long a pause would be if that is what they ultimately decide.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report

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