Reports: NHL stops testing asymptomatic players except for cross-border travel

The NHL will stop testing asymptomatic players and staff following the All-Star break next month, ESPN and The Athletic reported Tuesday.

Testing still will be required for cross-border travel and, of course, for those who show symptoms of COVID-19.

The league and the NHLPA have reached an agreement on the new protocol, per the reports. However, the sides will meet again at the end of the month to formalize the change, provided cases are in decline, per the reports.

All-Star Weekend is Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas. Players will be tested prior to arriving but not once they are there.

The league moved to daily testing in December but has softened some policies since, including reducing the isolation period from 10 days to five for players and staff who are asymptomatic.

Credit Steve Yzerman

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?”

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

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

Yzerman’s comments 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.”

The Canucks’ Tyler Myers and Rangers’ Ryan Strome also to the calls for change.

“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.”

–Field Level Media contributed to this report