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NHL reportedly implements enhanced COVID-19 protocols

Updated December 15, 2021 - 5:31 pm

The NHL is ramping up its COVID-19 protocol.

In response to a wave of positive tests, the league introduced enhanced measures for teams through at least Jan. 7, 2022, according to multiple sources.

More than two dozen players entered COVID protocol over the past two days, with the Golden Knights suddenly on high alert following their game in Boston on Tuesday.

“We have issued more than 20 COVID Protocols (plus dozens of updates) since March ’20 and continue to look at what enhanced measures might be required, especially in the wake of the current outbreak we are dealing with,” NHL spokesperson Gary Meagher wrote in an email to the Review-Journal. “We will continue to be guided by the health authorities in both the U.S. and Canada and be flexible and adaptable on a daily basis in order to complete the entirety of our 2021-22 season and playoffs.”

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was placed in COVID protocol Wednesday, according to the team, after forwards Brad Marchand and Craig Smith entered the protocol hours before Tuesday’s game.

The Knights are scheduled to play Thursday at New Jersey, which is facing its own COVID and illness problems.

The Devils have three players (forward Nico Hischier, and defensemen Christian Jaros and Ryan Graves) in COVID-19 protocol and had several others dealing with non-COVID illness during a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

New Jersey canceled its morning skate Tuesday and only select players participated Wednesday.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association held conference calls with doctors the past two days as the omicron variant of the coronavirus surges and causes concerns throughout the league.

The enhanced protocols are similar to what NHL players experienced last season, with limited social interactions outside of the hotel, home or the rink, according to ESPN and Sportsnet. Players are not allowed to dine indoors on the road and must observe social distancing.

There reportedly will be daily tests for COVID-19 rather than every third day, with team meetings being held virtually. Face coverings also will be required at team facilities.

The news came on the heels of Ontario health officials unveiling rules that will reduce capacity at the home arenas of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors plus the Ottawa Senators to 50 percent starting Saturday.

“The Vegas Golden Knights and Henderson Silver Knights continue to follow the applicable recommendations from state and local health officials, the National Hockey League and the CDC,” the team said in a statement. “If any adjustments or changes are made to any fan policies, we will communicate those changes once confirmed.”

The NHL tried to get in front of the outbreaks, sending a memo recently that encouraged players to limit contact with the public and all team-sanctioned holiday parties to be canceled.

That hasn’t stopped the spread across the league in recent days.

Carolina’s game at Minnesota on Tuesday was postponed when four Hurricanes players tested positive. They joined two players and a member of the training staff, who entered the COVID-19 protocol Monday and are quarantining in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Calgary’s season is on pause until at least Saturday after 17 players and staff members were added to the protocol on Wednesday.

Additionally, Florida announced Wednesday that five players and one member of its travel party are in COVID-19 protocol. And Nashville announced coach John Hynes, two assistants and six players were in protocol.

Despite the outbreaks, the NHL reportedly isn’t considering pausing the season.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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