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NHL, NHLPA finalize coronavirus protocols for '21-22 season

The biggest news is a mechanism for teams to suspend unvaccinated players who are unable to participate in club activitiesGETTY IMAGES

The NHL and NHLPA have "finalized COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season," according to Elliotte Friedman of SPORTSNET.ca. The biggest news is a "mechanism for teams to suspend unvaccinated players who are 'unable to participate in club activities.'" This includes situations where a player "cannot travel because of local, provincial/state and/or federal regulations 'upon return.'" It is a "major development considering the Canada/U.S. border and different rules/approaches across the NHL’s North American landscape." Team GMs were "warned about this possibility at their virtual meeting in July and began informing players about the possibility." If a fully vaccinated player is confirmed with a positive COVID test, his condition “shall be treated as a hockey-related injury for all purposes” under the CBA. Unvaccinated players who are not exempted for the above reasons "will not be paid if his team establishes, '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.'" Fully vaccinated players "shall be subject to PCR testing at least every 72 hours." That guideline "could change depending on how things progress." Unvaccinated players "will be tested daily" (SPORTSNET.ca, 9/3).

OPEN DOORS: THE ATHLETIC's Michael Russo noted the Canadian government recently opened the border to Americans or Canadians living in the U.S. as long as they have been "fully vaccinated for 14 days and show proof of a negative test result within 72 hours of their arrival." Unvaccinated individuals who arrive in Canada -- whether a resident or not -- "still must quarantine for 14 days." The NHL and NHLPA "will continue to review potential resolutions to this issue and any other governmental regulations that may limit the ability of players to participate in NHL games and will meet no later than Sept. 17 to discuss and bargain in good faith the possibility of pursuing a National Interest Exemption from the Canadian government" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/2).

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