NHL's new COVID-19 protocols ramp up restrictions, penalties for unvaccinated players, memo says

Thursday's NHL safety and health protocols for 2021-22 were announced to teams by the NHL. They include significant restrictions that apply to unvaccinated players.
ESPN obtained a 27-page document that outlines the protocol. It states that unvaccinated players cannot travel to other places than the team hotel, practice area, and arena. Unvaccinated players cannot use the hotel's bar, restaurant, pool, or gym. They also can't have guests or teammates in their rooms.

It is forbidden for unvaccinated players to carpool or use saunas. They are advised not to drink or eat on flights, or attend bars or clubs.

Unvaccinated players can be suspended by teams if they are "unable" to participate in club activities. This memo applies regardless of whether the player is a positive case or if they cannot travel because of governmental restrictions. For each day that they miss, unvaccinated players forfeit one day's pay. However, the league may make exceptions for those with medical or religious excuses. If the league determines that the case is "out of the course or employment as a hockey player", the league will not suspend the unvaccinated player.

Players who have not been vaccinated will be required to remain in quarantine for seven consecutive days before they can train camp. They will be tested daily throughout the season, while vaccinated players are tested at least once every three days.

ESPN has been informed by sources that the "overwhelming majority" of NHL players have been vaccinated.

Players are asked to refrain from participating in community events like speaking engagements, charity events or autograph sessions.

NHLPA and the NHL are close to a deal with the IIHF and IOC for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. This agreement should be announced within the next few days. Sources told ESPN that all NHL players participating in the Olympics must be vaccinated as part of this agreement.

The agreement will also include an opt-out clause that allows the NHLPA and NHL to withdraw from the Olympics if COVID-19 conditions worsen.

The NHL plans to resume its normal pace and 82-game schedule for this season. The puck will drop on opening night, Oct. 12. The NHL also stated that it plans to allow vaccinated media personnel back into the locker rooms. The league states that anyone who is required to be within 12 feet from players or their job must also be vaccinated.

These protocols offer protections to vaccinated athletes. A player who has been vaccinated for COVID-19 will be considered a hockey-related injury.

The NHL offers players the option to withdraw from the season if they have health issues. Notifications to teams must be received by Oct. 1. Opting out of the season will mean that players cannot play in any other hockey league or at the Olympics.