More NHL players getting on board with Steve Yzerman’s suggestion on COVID testing

steve yzerman covid testing
From left: Ken Holland, Steve Yzerman and Christopher Ilitch at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on April 19, 2019. Wings Conference2

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman raised an interesting question regarding testing before his team was shutdown prior to Holiday Break.

“At the end of the day, our players are testing positive with very little symptoms, if any symptoms at all,” Yzerman said. “I don’t see it as a threat to their health at this point. So I think we need to take it a step further and question why are we even testing guys that have no symptoms?”

While this has received some criticism, since he said it, several players have hopped on board with the suggestion.

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NHL players think change to testing needed

The NHL had its teams open up yesterday and test all their players. What happened was over 40 players being placed on COVID protocol.

After Yzerman’s comments, he received a smattering of public support with Winnipeg Jets’ goalie Connor Hellebuyck and St. Louis Blues’ captain Ryan O’Reilly being the most prominent voices. After yesterday’s rash of positive tests, more spoke out.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but the feeling for myself … it’s a little overkill,” Hellebuyck said. “You see leagues like the NFL, who are adapting and, I think, doing things right.”

“I agree with those guys. We’ve got guys vaccinated, double vaccinated. Some guys aren’t showing any symptoms and they’re popping in COVID protocol,” O’Reilly threw in his support. “I think I’d like to see testing if you have symptoms but it’s not up to me. It’s a league and players decision.”

ryan o'reilly covid
Oct 23, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (90) controls the puck against the Los Angeles Kings in the third period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the Canucks’ Tyler Myers and Rangers’ Ryan Strome joined the choir looking for the NHL adapt.

“I saw Steve’s comments. My personal opinion is I completely agreed with what he said. I think he was bang-on,” Myers said. “I think as players the most frustrating part is seeing what other sports leagues are doing. It seems we’re heading the opposite direction of that. I think it’s a little confusing for us.”

“I think we probably have to change the protocols,” Strome said. “Like, the NBA and the NFL are playing. I think the way the other leagues have handled it, obviously it seems to be working and they’re playing games and we’re watching the football games after practice. I think with everything, we have to evolve with what we’ve gone through and I think it’s probably time to look at things.”

A change in testing is unlikely

Enhanced protocols are in place until January 7 and they include daily testing. 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.

The NFL eliminated weekly Covid-19 testing for vaccinated players who are asymptomatic. This is what everyone is referring to. However, it is unlikely to change.

The biggest difference between the NHL and other sports is the heavy travel between the US and Canadian border. Canada’s health officials are also much stricter than that of the United States. The NHL and NHLPA realize changes to testing would be a non-starter for health officials in Canada, so they continue to deal the best they can with the guidance in front of them.