The National Hockey League Players’ Association has been strongly encouraging its players to consider being fully vaccinated in advance of the upcoming 2021-22 season.
In conversation with its team and player reps the past week, the Players’ Association has provided information to the league that if players do contract COVID-19 this coming season, they may be without pay while they recover from the virus.
Giving the league’s 32 clubs power to withhold paycheques for unvaccinated players, the PA says that even if an unvaccinated player may not have COVID, but is unable to play because of local health and safety guidelines, he is not entitled to his paycheque for that period of time.
Should unvaccinated players from the United States want to enter Canada to play against any of the seven Canadian-based clubs, they would need to acquire a government travel exemption to play within Canada while unvaccinated. This is highly unlikely and will undoubtedly result in the player being forced to stay home in the USA, without pay.
The NHL has also addressed each club about vaccination status with its employees. Anyone who works for an NHL team and has any interaction with players must be fully-vaccinated.
“Any person whose job, role, position, or access entails or entitles them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) with club hockey operations personnel (including Players) are required to be fully vaccinated,” the statement read. Although player protocol has not yet been finalized, there are some exemptions to the fully-vaccinated status requirement, such as valet parking attendants for the players’ vehicles.
Currently, the NHL is hovering at just over an 85 percent fully-vaccinated rate. The NFL and NBA are sitting slightly higher at approximately 90 percent.
Last season, after significant testing and strict protocol being put in place, the league slightly relaxed its policies and mandates once teams hit the 85 percent fully-vaccinated mark. At that point, players were allowed to gather together outside of team facilities, as well as enjoy patios at restaurants and even enter one another’s hotel room.
The NHL and NHLPA will be providing further instruction to its players, teams and fans once it itches itself closer to puck drop on the 2021-22 NHL season.