The Las Vegas Golden Knights are entering a brave new world thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and while they will get to finish their season, they will have to follow a plethora of new rules in order to do so. While every sport is facing this conundrum of dealing with a health crisis now, the NHL has gone above and beyond in their precautions for the season.
One of the first changes is that only 31 players on each roster will be allowed in what is being described as secure zones, including the goalies. These secure zones are hotels, restaurants, practice facilities, and the arena that the teams are playing at.
As for the players, they will each be assigned to a single-occupancy room and are not allowed to go visit teammates. The players will be able to meet at the bar, restaurants, training facility, or in the pool, however, if social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
That brings us to masks, which are required once players leave their single-occupancy hotel rooms. They can remove the masks if they are exercising, eating, or drinking. Coaches aren’t required to wear masks when they are on the bench, though, and on-ice officials aren’t mandated to either.
One thing that separates the NHL so far is the fact that while NASCAR drivers are not allowed to have their families travel with them, NHL players will be able to do so in the conference finals and the cup finals.
Moving on to the matter of testing during the playoffs, players will be tested three times 48 hours apart before being allowed to board a charter flight for the hub city. Once the teams reach the hub, they will be tested daily for the virus and undergo a variety of tests to ensure that they are healthy.
Now, what happens to someone that tests positive or was in contact with someone that tests positive for Covid-19? Well, the rules are the same as they were for phase three of return to play, which means that the player will be immediately isolated and must test negative twice in order to return.
Unfortunately for fans, due to HIPPA laws, players are not allowed to disclose to the media who tested positive for the virus or who else they might have interacted within that time. The only exception to that rule is if players get permission from their team to make the news public, which will be interesting to see if they do.
Finally, there are several protocols that must be adhered to and one of the biggest ones is the fact that players are not allowed to leave the isolation bubble. In fact, if a player or group of players is caught outside the bubble, they risk ten-day isolation, increased testing measures, and a loss of NHL draft picks. They could also be permanently removed from play or even fined heavily.
Can players leave the secure zone though? The answer to that question is yes, but only with permission from a medical professional. There is also a clause in the return to play that accounts for family emergencies, special events, and the death of a relative. Upon returning to the bubble, they will be isolated in their hotel room until they test negative for Covid-19 four straight times in a four-day period.
In the end, these rules are a lot to process and are probably going to take a while to get used to. With that being said, and the ongoing health crisis in mind, it’s obvious that these measures are for the protection of everyone and should be taken seriously. Either that or risk a media circus after failing to protect the athletes.
As for the fans, the NHL has made the determination that while they would love to have them in the stands, the current crisis prevents that from being a possibility. Of course, a lot of fans are going to be upset at that decision, especially with a championship being on the line, it seems to ultimately be for the greater good.