Assistant coach Rocky Thompson leaves Sharks; based on strict new COVID protocols

On Thursday, the NHL released its new COVID protocols for the 2021-22 season which allows for the suspension of unvaccinated players with some exceptions.

San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson, who is unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to an undisclosed medical reason, stepped down Friday.

“Under the new League protocols, I am not permitted to fulfill my duties on the Sharks coaching staff at this time,” Thompson said in a statement. “I will have no further comment on this matter.”

Under league rules, any person who goes within 12 feet of NHL players must be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Thompson was preparing for his second season on San Jose’s coaching staff. The Sharks plan to name his replacement in the near future.

[brid video=”760838″ player=”23765″ title=”NHL%20Agent%20Pat%20Brisson%20on%20the%20Growth%20of%20Hockey%20Across%20Generations” duration=”64″ description=”Pat Brisson, National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) agent, explains witnessing the progress of hockey from the 90s to today.” uploaddate=”2021-02-09″ thumbnailurl=”” contentUrl=”″]

NHL’s new strict COVID protocols

Any players that are unable to participate in club activities due to COVID can be suspended, which would include travel preventing them from playing. Those players would “forfeit the equivalent of one day’s pay for each day”; as the protocol states.

nhl covid
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The exceptions for unvaccinated players who contract COVID and are unable to participate in club activities are for medical reasons, religious beliefs, infection occurred as result of employment as a hockey player, quarantine due to exposure, and “balance of probabilities.”

Some of these exemptions are clear, there still seems to be a level of interpretation that comes with others. If exposure occurred as a result of employment as a hockey player, does that mean unvaccinated players who get COVID during a game are not going to lose money? The other is balance of probabilities which is the vaguest of them all. The protocol reads; “on the basis of a balance of the probabilities, that the player failed to comply with the terms of this protocol in a manner that was reasonably related to his contraction of COVID-19 and/or any resulting or related illness.”

Vaccinated players who contract COVID will be considered injured.

Other key notes

  • Players that wish to opt out must do so by October 1
  • Fully vaccinated players must have a PCR test every 72 hours
  • Unvaccinated players must be tested daily
  • Unvaccinated players must follow last year’s strict guidelines when on the road
    • Can’t leave hotel
    • Can’t use hotel gym/facilities
    • Can’t have teammates in room (only fully vaccinated family members)

–Field Level Media contributed to this report