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NHL COVID news: Asymptomatic players won’t be tested; schedule update soon

NHL covid

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 09: An NHL logo is seen prior to a game between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 9, 2020, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the NHL returns from its All-Star break in early February, asymptomatic players and staff will no longer be subjected to COVID-19 testing.

The NHL has had over 100 games postponed this season due to an increase in COVID-19 case, as well as attendance restrictions in Canada.

Based on the new agreement between the league and the players tests will only be adminstered when it comes to border crossing requirements and in cases where players or staff have symptoms.

From the NHL:

Five-Day Isolation Period: The isolation period Protocol update issued Dec. 29 appears to be functioning well in its current form. A significant portion of Players appear to be exiting isolation after five days, with a lab-based PCR test that has a CT value >30.

Testing Protocol: The plan is to continue the current testing Protocol through Feb. 3. Provided positive test results continue to decline within the NHL, and pending review and agreement by Jan. 31 by the NHL’s and NHLPA’s medical experts, the Protocol will be updated as follows:

i. There will be no testing of Fully Vaccinated Players and Staff during the All-Star break (including for participating Players and staff), unless needed for travel or development of symptoms.

ii. There will be a single test upon re-entry to Club facilities post-All-Star, after which there will no longer be asymptomatic testing, or testing of Fully Vaccinated close contacts.

iii. Thereafter, testing will continue only on a limited “for cause” basis in Fully Vaccinated Players and Staff who develop symptoms or require testing for cross-border travel.

iv. The post-COVID “testing holiday” will remain at 90 days, but symptom-based testing can still be done at the team physician’s discretion. Testing for cross-border travel post-COVID will be dictated by the relevant health authority, which is currently 90 days for entry to the U.S. and 180 days for entry to Canada.

Enhanced Measures: The current enhanced preventive measures will remain in place in the short term. The NHLPA and NHL will meet on Jan. 31 to make recommendations for relaxation of the enhanced measures, providing rates continue to decline within the NHL.

Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff reported that the league informed teams that more than 73% of players have tested positive at some point this season, with approximately 60% testing positive in the past five weeks. Many (but not all) of those players remained asymptomatic. All but one NHL player (Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi) is vaccinated.

Schedule update expected this week

[UPDATE: Here is the NHL’s updated schedule for postponed games.]

It is expected that the NHL will announce makeup dates in the coming days -- perhaps even as soon as Wednesday -- for most of the more than 100 games that have been postponed.

With NHL players no longer participating in the Olympics there is a three-week window in February that is going to be used to fill in the schedule for postponed games. It stands to reason that with so many games and teams impacted, and with so few dates open to actually reschedule games, that teams are going to have a very condensed schedule in the second half of the season. They should probably expect several back-to-back situations and perhaps even a handful of three games in four day stretches throughout the month.