Ice Breakers: NHL Debates Covid-19 Testing Requirements For Asymptomatic Players


What do Nathan MacKinnon, Mark Scheifele and Jeff Carter have in common?

As well as being world centers, all three are among a handful of vaccinated NHL players who have missed games in the first two weeks of the season for a positive COVID-19 test despite the fact that they are asymptomatic.

Their absences have wreaked havoc on their teams – competitively, with their rosters and salary caps, in addition to a health and lifestyle perspective, triggering additional protocols and restrictions. .

This led to the frustration of players and front offices.

Change could be on the horizon.

Daily confrontation has learned that the NHL and its team of medical experts are currently debating the merits of testing asymptomatic players.

In other words, it’s possible the NHL may change the protocol just to test players and team staff for COVID-19 who are showing symptoms.

The parties involved, including the NHL Players Association, will jointly review the testing requirements starting November 1. It is difficult to predict the likelihood of a protocol change for asymptomatic testing, as we are told that even the experts have a mixed opinion.

The NBA does not test vaccinated players, with rare exceptions, according to its published protocol. The NFL tests all players once a week, while NHL players could be tested three times during the same period. (The MLB protocol was written in February, which makes it much less applicable here.)

A change to the protocol is only largely possible because since it was written in August, the NHL now has a more complete picture of the league’s vaccination status. All but four of the league players (99.5%) were fully vaccinated; every team member or staff, including the media, who comes into regular contact with players is also fully immunized.

The idea behind the potential removal of the testing requirement for asymptomatic people is partly due to the fact that their risk of serious illness is significantly reduced thanks to the vaccine, but also due to the logistics involved in the testing. It often takes more than 16 to 24 hours for teams to receive the results of the PCR lab tests.

The current NHL COVID-19 protocol requires that vaccinated people be tested at least once every 72 hours. This means that an asymptomatic person may have already had the ability to spread the virus for a few days to those around them before even coming forward as a positive test.

The other side of the argument, with a perspective on the overall health and safety of players, is that science might not know enough about the long-term health effects, even for asymptomatic players. Some studies have indicated that damage to the lungs and / or heart can occur in the absence of symptoms. The NHL must also keep the health and safety of family members of players and staff in mind.

Of course, all of the players who tested positive this season were asymptomatic. A number of vaccinated players, including Blake Wheeler of Winnipeg, Zach Aston-Reese of Pittsburgh and Calle Jarnkrok of Seattle, have also tested positive this season and have shown symptoms. They were all quarantined for 10 days.

Asymptomatic players may test out of protocol with consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart. Some of them would have preferred not to know the results initially, given their absence of symptoms.

Winnipeg Jets forward Paul Stastny expressed his opinion on the asymptomatic player test Thursday, one of the few players to speak publicly of a widely held opinion in the hockey locker room.

“Yeah, I mean, if you’re testing all the time you’re just looking for someone to get it,” Stastny told reporters. “So it’s just if the guys don’t have any symptoms, if everyone is vaccinated in the NHL, and the staff and the players, I understand you want to be safe. But if no one is having symptoms and you’re not going to be tested, you shouldn’t… I don’t think you should be tested all the time. I think if the guys were told last summer, potentially, that if everyone is vaccinated, then if you have symptoms, you will get tested, which is understandable, I understand.

“Just because it’s something new and something that the whole world is still facing, I think it will always be there. But eventually, we’ll have to learn to live with it and take care of ourselves, that either how we train or how we recover; how we eat or how we exercise and stuff like that. There will always be cases where, you know, unexpected things happen. But you can tell. that about a lot of other things. So it would be nice if that went away and we wouldn’t have to deal with it. But it’s gonna be there for… looks like it’s gonna be there forever and I think we are going to have to learn to go ahead and find ways to deal with it and then try to be as healthy as possible.


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