NHL: New COVID protocols allows for suspensions unvaccinated players

The NHLPA had a call with its members in mid-August to inform them they could lose pay if they contract COVID-19 and are not vaccinated. Loss of pay could also stem if an unvaccinated player is unable to join the team on trips where vaccination would be required to entire that jurisdiction.

In August, The Athletic reported they do not believe the league will mandate players to get the vaccine but with such a policy in place, it will make players feel pressure to do so.

“It sort of puts the pressure on everyone,” said one player. “You don’t want to be the reason your team plays shorthanded or is forced to be stuck inside your hotel like last season.”

The Athletic

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NHL’s new COVID protocols released

Yesterday, the NHL released its new COVID protocols for the 2021-22 season which does indeed allow for the suspension of unvaccinated players with some exceptions.

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.

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)