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NHL relaxing COVID-19 protocols during playoffs for fully vaccinated teams

Last Updated May 8, 2021 at 12:02 pm MDT

A security guard peers out from behind NHL branded fencing at the entrance where players arrive at Toronto's Royal York hotel, which is acting as the "bubble" ahead of the return of the league's season following disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Toronto, Sunday, July 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The NHL is relaxing COVID-19 protocols during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for teams that have been fully vaccinated, according to a memo circulated on Saturday morning.

The changes will allow players to gather socially outside of team facilities, eat and drink outdoors at restaurants and spend time in each other’s hotel rooms after not being permitted to do so during the regular season.

Face coverings and social distancing will no longer be required for team meetings and social gatherings, and players won’t have to come in off days to receive PCR testing.

The changes will only impact U.S.-based teams initially because 85 per cent of a team’s travelling party has to be two weeks beyond the second vaccination in order to qualify. Players on Canadian teams have started to receive their first vaccine doses, according to sources, but none of the teams are in a position to qualify for the amended rules.

The new protocols come with a change in quality of life.

Fully vaccinated players will be permitted to use saunas and steam rooms at team facilities, valet park their cars and play golf as a group – provided they don’t enter the clubhouse or other indoor facilities.

The modified COVID-19 protocols are subject to being withdrawn altogether for various reasons, including the case of a team outbreak.

They can also be amended as part of a potential deal reached with the Canadian government that would allow for cross-border travel during the third and fourth round of the playoffs.